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If only Dad was here …

By Stephen Kafeero

A girl’s dreams illuminate the struggle of families coping with loss and injustice

Wakuma Frank had promised his daughter a bike for her 6th birthday. She never got it. Exactly a month before that anticipated celebration, on 14th July, 2010, he was buried. A devastating bomb blast at Kyandondo Rugby Club on July 11 had robbed him and 76 other football fans of their lives, and his daughter of her idol.

Karen Namaye, 8, easily envisions him as an angel in heaven. And possessing the power of an angel, she keeps hoping he will come back one day.

This is the source of many arguments with her mother, Mary Elizabeth Kahasasamwa, who thinks the sooner she accepts the reality the faster they will both heal.

But Karen is a dreamer. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up; or a president.

“I want to be president to help the country,” she says.

Perhaps the dreams help her cope with the uncertainty and struggle her father’s untimely death brought to her life.

Kahasasamwa says that even though they had misunderstandings with her husband at the time of his death, she misses him dearly, especially the special bond he had with their daughter.

“He took good care of us, and he always took Karen for weekends,” says the mother who struggles, and sometimes fails, to maintain her daughter in the quality of life her father used to provide.

“When she asks for something that I can’t provide she says ‘I wish Dad was here’ and it really hurts me,” says Kahasasamwa.

Karen’s performance in school has declined because she often misses days for late payment of fees.

“My worst fear is that she will miss all her dreams, I want the best for my daughter,” says Kahasasamwa.

This has put her at loggerheads with in-laws and exacerbated disagreements over how Wakuma’s property and business, which includes a house and carpentry shop, were allegedly appropriated by relatives who do not support his children.

Kahasasamwa says her strength are her friends and her sister-in-law Victoria who also disagreed with the way her dead brothers’ property was shared out by her other siblings.

Wakuma left four children, with four different mothers. Wakalanga Arthur is now cared for by his aunt Victoria. 18-year old Masaba Daniel is in Senior Two at St Mary’s College Lugazi, under a Nile Breweries scholarship.

A total of 45 secondary school students orphaned by the blasts will benefit from the scheme under which the beer company has so far committed Shs 26 million, according to Onapito Ekomoloit, the Corporate Affairs Director of Nile Breweries Ltd.

John Waneloba, a brother of the deceased, says school dues is the biggest challenge and calls on government to assist.

“We can at least cater for the other expenses,” he says.

However Kahasasamwa is also unhappy with the way government distributed the Shs 5 million ‘compensation’ to families of the dead, which she says caused conflict.

“I never saw a shilling of that money or accountability of how it was spent,” she says. “Government should have used the money to put up a venture and finance the education of orphans at the lower level.”

Waneloba says the money was used to pay off a bank loan the deceased had obtained from Centenary Bank in order to secure the house, which he had used as collateral, and the balance covered other expenses.

Waneloba says that they are refurbishing the house to generate rental income and support the children in future.

Waiting for justice

The delay of justice has also denied much-needed closure to many of the families of the dead and injured.

Only two people have been convicted for the tragic attack of two years ago.

Edris Nsubuga, who admitted to planting the explosives at Kyadondo Rugby Ground, was sentenced to 25 years in prison by High Court Justice Owiny Dollo. Muhamoud Mugisha got five years for conspiracy.

Five others – including Ali Amin Kimathi, Khalif Abdi Muhammed, Dr. Ismail Kalule, Muhammed Adan and Ismail Walusimbi – were released last year after the state dropped its charges.

Eleven suspects are still remanded at Luzira Upper Prison, including seven Kenyans, one Tanzanian and three Ugandans. One of the suspects, Tanzanian Nijar Nyamandondo, is said to be critically ill and has been referred abroad for treatment of eye problems he allegedly sustained due to torture by Uganda security agents, according to his lawyer Duncun Ondimu.

But this is not enough for the families. “I want the people who were responsible for my Dad’s death to be put in prison for life,” says Karen.

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