13 November 2012

Uganda: I Endured a Marriage So Difficult It Left Me Scarred

The corrosion left her face scarred, but it did not break her spirit. Nakiryowa is not hiding under veils. She proved this by walking into the New Vision offices with her head held high.

Even after various operations at Mulago Hospital, doctors have referred her to South Africa for further care, but she has no money as she has been out of work for long.

One of her eyes is damaged. She told Sunday Vision it was now useless to cry over spilled milk. Instead, she is out to join hands with acid attack victims to advocate for an end to acid attacks in this country.

Before the attack, Nakiryowa was the monitoring and evaluation officer at the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) - UNICEF partnership programme in charge of keeping mothers and children alive, safe and in school.

Her story:

I come from a poor family, which, nonetheless managed to put me through school up to university, with the hope that I would later help my other siblings. Unfortunately, I did not know that getting involved with Faisal Buyinza, my former lecturer, whom I met at university in 2003, would crash my family's hopes.

By 2005, we had moved in together and by the time of my graduation in 2006, it was a double celebration, as I was also having my first child. "But the celebration never lasted long.

A text message I received on the third day after I had given birth was enough to annoy him so much that he threw me out of our home.

The message had come from a male friend I studied with at the university. The other messages congratulating me on getting a baby never bothered him because they were from girls.

After my family had intervened, he cooled down, but he hit me with another surprise: I was to become a housewife. No career.

My pleas for him to allow me work and help my family fell on deaf ears. For seven years I obliged and stayed home to cook for him and care for our two children. I also continued with my studies.

But accusations of unfaithfulness continued in 2008 while he was abroad for further studies, so I proposed that he grants me a separation, in what is known as 'Talak' in Islam, but he refused. Our religious leaders explained that once a man refuses the idea, separation or divorce cannot be granted.

Friends and family members would see me drive his posh cars and probably think I was happy, but none of them knew I was living like a slave. I was so miserable. After I got my master's degree last year, I applied for and got a job at the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.

I thought this place of employment would not bother him, but he was not happy. He again accused me of infidelity and threatened my life, which I reported to the Old Kampala Police post, but nothing was done.

The last blow came when I got an iron bar under the pillow one morning while making our bed. I immediately called my father to pick me up and take me to safety. I sought protection in my brother's home. Little did I know that something tragic was coming.


One day, while I was at my brother's home, he called and asked that I take the children to visit him for the weekend. He promised to return them on Sunday.

On Sunday, he instead called and asked me to go pick them, claiming he was busy. Unsuspecting, I went to pick my children. On reaching the Makerere University gate, I called him. I asked him to come pick me from there.

He refused and told me to walk to Mugenyi Flats. It was dark, around 8:00pm. I knocked on his door several times, but no one opened.

As I waited, I saw a man in the corridor walk towards me. I thought he was one of the guards so I relaxed. As he walked passed me, I courteously greeted him. He continued to a cupboard near where I stood and bent down. I could hear him unwrap a kaveera (polythene bag). I had no idea he would be my attacker.

On getting up, he poured acid straight into my face. In shock and pain, I called out my husband's name, but he never came to my aid.

The neighbours must have heard my screams. They ran to my rescue. When my husband finally opened the door, my baby naturally ran to me. Unfortunately, he fell into acid that had spilled on the floor.

The neighbours rushed me to Mulago Hospital, where my husband later followed with our baby. A scuffle followed at Mulago after he met my father and brothers as they accused him of the incident.

He ran to the Police and filed a case claiming my family was threatening his life and he never came back for the three months I was admitted at Mulago Hospital.

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