27 November 2012

Uganda: Jolly, Friendly Ndagire Bows Out

Early last year, Moreen Ndagire graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree from Kyambogo University and at her home, in Kiwanga-Seeta in Mukono district, a huge party was hosted in her honour.

On November 21, the same compound was filled with shocked relatives and friends who had come to pay their last respects to one of Kiwanga's latest graduates. Ndagire, 24, a sub-editor at the Red Pepper newspaper allegedly committed suicide by hanging on November 19.

Relatives say Ndagire was gang-raped in August and had since failed to heal. According to her aunt, soon after the attack, Ndagire attempted to commit suicide through poisoning but she was rushed to hospital and the dangerous substance was successfully flushed. Ndagire even went back to work. On the first day at work, however, a tactless colleague walked to her desk and joked about the rape.

He reportedly told her: "Ndagire, kulika agasajja." (Ndagire congratulations on surviving those thugs). She did not answer him, but walked out of her station and out the gate, forgetting to even carry her purse. The next day, she returned to work and tried to live normally again.

Around that time, the troubled Ndagire asked her mother to go with her to live in another place for a while. That is how mother and daughter left their home and rented the fateful room in Kireku-Bweyogerere, where the journalist ended her life.

Her colleague, Michael Kakumikirizi says that since Ndagire suffered that misfortune, she had been quite temperamental and a number of her workmates tried to counsel her, but failed to break through her wall.

Red Pepper's Human Resource manager, Berna Nyangoma says, "She [Ndagire] had a problem which was being handled. But she has been working normally. We really don't know much about her death. She was a social and good girl - that is all I can tell you."

On her profile on Facebook, Ndagire described herself as a "lovely, jolly, simple, loving and caring lady, and God-fearing." She had 220 friends on Facebook.

At her death, some of those friends wondered why she had made such a decision when they had been praying about her problem together.

"We are so saddened by that girl's death. She was such a good friend to all of us at our stage; whoever killed her will pay for it," a boda boda cyclist that delivered me to the burial grounds offered, the moment our ride began.

According to the cyclist, one of Ndagire's relatives is jealous of her family and she had warned them severally that they would one day shed tears of grief. She supposedly alluded to the fact that Ndagire and her siblings were doing well and warned their parents about taking it for granted that for them it would always be happiness.

The cyclist believes it is that relative that must have cast a spell on Ndagire, leading her to commit suicide and the circumstances leading up to it. Maybe there is reason for someone to have been jealous of Ndagire, seeing as she was newspaper material in 2007, when she appeared among the best A-level students from Bishop's Secondary School, Mukono.

Ndagire, according to relatives, left more than one suicide note; some say they were two, others say they were five notes. Word doing the rounds at the funeral suggested that among the events that could have led to the incident, is the information that her boyfriend had, on learning about her attack, grown cold towards her and was not picking her calls most of the time.

There was also talk that the men who assaulted Ndagire continued bombarding her with abusive and threatening phone calls telling her that her days were numbered.

The men supposedly told her that they had infected her with HIV and that they did not know why she continued feeling so important. Whether those narratives are true, it remains to be ascertained, but police which is holding onto the deceased girl's mobile phone says she left three suicide notes and also wrote a message on her thigh.

"Basically she was apologizing for committing suicide and begging to be forgiven," says police spokesman Vincent Sekate.

One note was to her father, another to her mother and the third to an unspecified person. Sekate says the post-mortem confirmed that Ndagire committed suicide.

Suicide after rape:

Information on the website suicide.org notes that it is common for rape victims to suffer depression and untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide. The website also gives warning signs that families can pick as a clue and seek help. But the important thing is that some people do not show any of the signs and yet end in suicide.

The signs to look out for are:

Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.

Talking or writing about death or suicide.

Withdrawing from family and friends.

Feeling hopeless.

Feeling helpless.

Feeling strong anger or rage.

Feeling trapped - like there is no way out of a situation.

Experiencing dramatic mood changes.

Abusing drugs or alcohol.

Exhibiting a change in personality.

Acting impulsively.

Losing interest in most activities.

Experiencing a change in sleeping habits.

Experiencing a change in eating habits.

Losing interest in most activities.

Performing poorly at work or in school.

Giving away prized possessions.

Writing a will.

Feeling excessive guilt or shame.

Acting recklessly.

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