The sun had just gone down on November 23, 2020, when 25-year-old Mary Namuyanja received a phone call from a friend informing her about some unidentified men who had picked her husband Martin Lukwago.
Lukwago, 32, was found with others outside Bugoloobi market, playing a board game commonly known as Ludo.
At first, Namuyanja didn’t take this seriously, thinking that her husband’s captors would release him moments later since she didn’t know him as a criminal.
“It wasn’t until morning after I realized Lukwago had not come back home that I started searching for him beginning with his friends I knew,” she said.
Lukwago was arrested with 10 other people who were suspected to have participated in the November 18, 2020 riots that erupted following the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) president, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine from Luuka district where he had gone for his presidential campaigns.
Among those arrested on the fateful day was Samuel Rumanyika. Rumanyika says that men in plain clothes ambushed them as played the board game at the side of the entrance of Bugoloobi market in Nakawa division.
“We were grabbed and bundled together, handcuffed, thrown into a waiting black van [infamously known as Drone],” Rumanyika said.
Inside the Drone, Rumanyika said, men, unknown to them, started beating, kicking and stepping on them.
It seemed they weren’t sure of who in particular they wanted so they kept asking for their names until they identified Lukwago.
“When Lukwago mentioned his name, they started pulling and throwing us out two by two, until the ten were out and they remained with Lukwago,” Rumanyika said.
It was the last time that Lukwago was seen, until today. Lukwago’s name does not appear on the list of 177 people released by Minister of Internal Affairs Jeje Odongo last week.
Grace Kirabo, the chairperson of the Bugoloobi market vendors, describes Lukwago as a polite vendor but a pro-change political activist, and an NUP ardent supporter.
Kirabo suspects that it could be the reason for his abduction.
Charles Bakana, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) appointed chief administrator of the market says that there was information that Lukwago was seen taking old car tyres and participating in protests calling for the release of Bobi Wine.
The market leadership did not investigate this information and Lukwago was kidnapped days later.
On November 24, 2020, Namuyanja went to Bugolobi police station to report a case but the police didn’t take her seriously.
Because she was sobbing, the police instead asked her if she had had a fight with her husband or if the husband had another wife.
Distraught by these questions, Namuyanja decided to take the matter to Jinja Road police station hoping to get assistance but all in vain.
Namuyanja opted to run to the media, hopping from one media house to another, telling them about her missing husband.
She was interviewed by NTV, Daily Monitor and Top TV among others until when a friend in Bugolobi market introduced her to a man who she said works in Mbuya army barracks.
The man promised to help Namuyanja find her husband if she gave him Shs 1 million. She discovered that the man was a conman after he had taken her to a building in Nansana claiming that it is where Lukwago was detained. The man disappeared and left her stranded in Nansana.
Getting lawyers hasn’t been easy for her because those she approached told her that she needs to know where Lukwago is detained before they can take up the case.
Four months after her husband was kidnapped, she says she is struggling to provide food and basic needs for their family.
She was forced out of the house her husband was renting at Shs 250,000 a month and now rents a room of Shs 50,000.
She also says she cannot afford to pay fees for the children. Namuyanja appeals to government to stop punishing the family and release her husband.
To make ends meet, Namuyanja has started vending food in Bugoloobi market.
“I am tired of crying. I just want my husband back,” Namuyanja said.
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