A woman nursing injuries in a Kampala hospital has said she witnessed the shooting dead in Arua of Yasin Kawuma and that she at the time was seated in the same Tundra vehicle owned by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi
In her first account on the August 13 incident on the last day of Arua Municipality by-election campaigns, the woman said she was on the backseat and that the killer bullet exited Kawuma’s body and grazed her head.
Relatives of the woman who is in her 20s have, for safety reasons, requested this newspaper not to reveal her identity and the particulars of medical facility where she is undergoing treatment.
Up to 36 people, among them four MPs and two journalists, were brutally arrested on the day of the mayhem, police and spy chiefs in West Nile subsequently booted out of office while security forces are still hunting down more suspects.
Contrary to earlier reports, the woman said Kawuma had not been driving Mr Kyagulanyi’s Tundra vehicle, registration UAT 416K, on the fateful day.
Another man, according to her, chauffeured the musician-turned-politician, popularly known by his stage name Bobi Wine, and that the day’s chauffeur had gone into Pacific Hotel in Arua Town when the incident happened.
This how she recounts the final moments of Kawuma, who was laid to rest at his ancestral home in Buwama, Mpigi District, on August 16.
“I was in the back seat while Kawuma was in the co-driver’s seat. The driver got out to take phones and other things to Bobi [Wine] or another person,” she narrates.
“I was showing Yasin [Kawuma] something on the phone when all of a sudden, I was hit on the face. I looked and there was blood on Yasin’s body.”
The woman said she instinctively jumped out of the car to flee to safety, but plain-clothed security operatives grabbed her almost immediately and pinned her to the ground.
Their colleagues joined and they began kicking and the shoving intensified. Another female activist (name withheld on request) tried to help her but both women were overpowered and beaten until they lay near unconscious outside the hotel.
The next thing she saw, when she fully regained her consciousness, was soldiers and police pulling people, including legislators out of the hotel.
Both women said they acted dead as a ruse to escape being arrested.
“They must have forgotten about us or thought we were dead,” one of them told this newspaper.
Security forces did not arrest them or they were not taken with the others.
The woman who is recuperating from a city hospital said some Good Samaritans helped to move them but her colleague, who had disguised as a waitress at Pacific Hotel, ran out of luck when one of genuine hotel workers arrested by security forces disowned her. Soldiers then slapped and kicked the imposter.
After the soldiers and police left, she says they were helped by a former female MP, who evaded arrest by disguising as a cook at the hotel.
The former MP was taking porridge in the kitchen when security forces raided Pacific Hotel, breaking into rooms to arrest those they were interested in.
The brutalised women were taken to a nearby clinic for first aid. Their ordeal was, however, not over.
Security personnel were searching all over for any suspects. She said she was taken to Kiryandongo General Hospital, about 276 kilometres away from Arua.
She recuperated at the facility on Gulu highway for five days. The medical personnel there advised her relatives to seek specialised care in Kampala.
She was again, stealthily, driven to the capital and kept at the facility where she has been for four days.
On a visit, our reporter found that the right side of the patient’s forehead that had been grazed by a bullet was stitched. From her hospital bed, in the crowded ward, she was able to speak but struggled to walk.
“She coughs dark clots of blood and struggles to breathe,” one of the attendants said, indicating that there had been some improvement in her condition compared to when she was first admitted to hospital.
In response to a question from our journalist about her condition, the woman said: “I feel so much pain on this [injured] side of the head”.
“I am bleeding, but I don’t know where the blood is coming from. I can’t sleep,” she coughs and spits something in a green bucket before turning to continue the conversation with our reporter.
One of her relatives says the doctors have advised them to seek specialist care in case she suffered internal injuries and bleeding hitherto undetected.
They are, however, afraid to move her around or even appeal for help from the public because security forces could swing in and arrest her.
At least six people have been shot dead and many more have taken bullet wounds in demonstrations in Kampala and Mityana arising from the Arua fracas. With the two journalists out on police bond and Mityana MP Francis Zaake hospitalised, the State had 33 of the remaining Arua suspects, popularised on social media with #Arua33 hashtag, charged with treason. The High Court in Gulu freed them on bail on Monday.
Nsanzimana Ernest ni Umwanditsi w’Ikinyamakuru Umuryango. Afite Impamyabumenyi y’Icyiciro cya Kabiri cya Kaminuza (A0) mu Itangazamakuru n’Itumanaho yakuye muri Kaminuza y’u Rwanda Ishuri ry’ itangazamakuru n’ itumanaho