Uganda: Bobi Protests - Tales of Tears, Pain At Mulago Hospital

26 November 2020

In the casualty ward at Mulago hospital lies young men. Four beds lie on either side of the three partitions in the ward. A sort of triage counter, where nurses watch patients from, is properly laid with food, drinks and clothing for patients and their caretakers.

Some patients have catheters, with tubes and containers hanging down from their beds. Others are helped to sit up or change position on the bed that will be their home for some unknown number of days or months. Some will walk back home with permanent disability, but unlucky ones may not return home alive.

These disabled young men were a few days ago healthy human beings going about their businesses until the two-day madness that left at least 50 people dead. This was as security forces quelled public protests following the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) party presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, on November 18.

"I hate the way they clean my wounds. It hurts so much but they clean until it is all red," one of the injured men complains. His wife watches and listens to him with a creased face.

Another caretaker tells her patient to persevere and listen to the health workers' advice as it is the only way to facilitate his early discharge from the hospital.

Countrywide protests

These men are just a fraction of many casualties in different parts of the country, who were either protesting Bobi Wine's arrest or were simply caught up in the mayhem as victims.

The two-day bloodletting left at least 50 people dead and the death toll could be much higher, considering that many bodies were immediately picked from the streets by relatives and friends without being recorded by police.

On Monday, police announced they had registered 50 deaths and 116 scenes of protests across the country on the two days of protest.

The patients now in the casualty ward, were going about their businesses before their fate suddenly changed.

As the teargas explosions clouded the skies and gunshots rang across the streets, the streets cleared and the hospitals filled with casualties.

A husband and wife lie in two different hospital beds. Susan Nansubuga is unconscious in a clinic in Mukono, while her husband, Andrew Suubi, 26, who had been shot, is in Mulago casualty ward.

The couple had been separated during the protests as police fired teargas and live bullets to disperse the protesters.

On the fateful day, Nansubuga receives a phone call from her husband. She could hear him groan in pain. He had been shot in the leg and a bullet was still lodged in his thigh. A teargas canister had blown off his heel. He collapsed, but gathered some energy to call his wife. The sad news was too heavy for her. She fainted. The mother of two children aged seven and four, regained consciousness later at a clinic near their home in Mukono.

After she left the clinic, she sent their two children to her mother in the village and broke the family's savings box to get money for the procedure to remove the bullets from her husband's leg.

"We paid Shs200,000 for the surgery to remove the bullet. We used to buy medicine as well. That was part of our savings. We were to use the money to complete our house," Nansubuga narrates.

She now spends on food at the hospital and transport from home to attend to her husband. With her husband stuck on the hospital bed for about three months, according to the doctors, she has to carry the family burden alone.

"We have a loan which we got to build a house. We were repaying weekly. I have to talk to the creditors to hold on until he recovers. I do not know what to do right now. I do not know whether they will accept," lamented the 26-year-old mother.

Suubi says he was shot while he moved out of his taxi at the New Taxi Park in Kampala. She wonders why police would shoot anyone who was not even part of the protesters.

Opposite her husband's hospital bed lies another bullet wound patient. The bullet bruised his lung. He had been on oxygen for an hour before he was brought to Mulago.

His father in Kyengera, a Kampala outskirt, had responded to screams of eight survivors who had been shot. He didn't know one of them was his own. Then he spotted his 22-year-old son fighting for his life.

The son had closed his shop due to the protests and was heading the park to catch a taxi home when security forces shot him and three others next to him.

"It was a military person shooting. My son was just there. Police were still firing bullets. I looked around and saw him there, lying down with blood flowing from his chest. I took him to a nearby clinic," the father narrated.

"I brought him to Mulago that evening. What security forces did is unforgivable," he further lamented.

He has to buy drugs from a private pharmacy because the government hospital does not have the medicine.

Mulago emergency ward has a private pharmacy within the facility where caretakers or patients buy the medicine prescribed by the hospital doctors.

In the lower casualty ward, a traffic police officer comes to check on another injured patient.

In a rather hushed conversation, one of the caretakers whispers to the police officer: "The doctors told us they might not be able to remove the bullet."

What victims' relatives say...

Father of 22-year-old victim

It was a military person shooting. My son was just there. Police were firing bullets. I looked around and saw him lying down with blood oozing from his chest. I took him to a nearby clinic. What security forces did is unforgivable.

Caretaker at Mulago casualty ward

He is a young boy who is not even interested in politics. Unfortunately for him, he ended up being shot yet he was at home. I don't know why police just fired bullets anyhow. Teargas alone is enough, there is no need for bullets.

Victim's caretaker at Mulago

They hit the spinal cord, and now they [doctors] cannot remove the bullet because they might end up damaging the [victim's] spinal cord and he becomes lame. But right now he is able to walk. He was home, he just fell victim.

Victim's caretaker at Upper Mulago

Remember the yellow car that knocked people during the riots in town? One of the victims of the accident is still here. Some came with terrible wounds. But when you are here without money, you cannot survive.

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