“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mr. Byamugisha (not real name) is a troubled man. Last year, his 7-year-old daughter was raped on her way to school. The culprit is 16 and by every definition, this is statutory rape.
Immediately Byamugisha went to Katuna police station, the police officers asked him for a doctor’s letter to prove whether his girl had been raped. The doctors confirmed that it was true. He was sent to Kabale police station where he filed a case. He was later referred to Kabale district headquarters in Makanga where he was assured he would get legal aid.
The case was dismissed. They (he doesn’t mention who in particular) asked him to come up with a gentleman’s agreement with the perpetrator and was convinced to drop the case since both (victim and perpetrator) were under age, they were advised go home and move on with their lives.
Byamugisha still had a glimmer of hope that justice would be served. He went back to Kabale central police station to reopen the case because he had been saving up some money to hire a lawyer from his house-painter wages. The officers at the station told him that the case number couldn’t be found.
He gave up.
But the torment remains with him and his family. The girl’s life is ruined. She will have to face her tormentor every day of her life. The village is small; they will fetch water from the same well. They will go to the same church. They will go to the same market. she will use the same road to go to school every day. Even when the village eventually forgets, she will quietly live with this indelible stain.
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics’ Statistical Abstract, 2014, defilement was the most common serious crime of all serious crimes of 2013. Out of the 18,000 serious crimes that were investigated in 2013, 9,598 were defilement cases.
Justice is not something many poor people in this country even think about. They have no money to buy it. They cannot bribe the policemen to prioritize their case, They have no money to hire a lawyer. Byamugisha will live with his pain and no one will care.
“One thing to note is that the legal system in principle is designed to work for all. However, it’s the ubiquitous implementation gaps that rig its effectiveness and defeat its ability to deliver for ‘ordinary’ citizens.” Andrew Karamagi a lawyer said.
Byamugisha’s story is the story of many families that have been affected by crime and have given up hope in their pursuit for justice.
I promised Byamugisha that I would write his story, and hopefully, a good Ugandan might pick it up and ensure that Byamugisha gets justice.