Lately, I have been a mother fearful for not only her own safety but also the future of her children. We just moved to this house a few months ago. I was forced to abruptly leave my previous house upon a peculiar late-night visit by policemen – or so they claimed to be. Neighbours told them off, but strange calls the days that followed made me realize my contact details had been compromised.
This is something that should never happen to anyone. I am just a single mom whose life is now dedicated to providing for my kids. Vitalis was my rock but he was snatched from my clenched fists. Losing him has brought me to awareness of how hateful our world is. When he died, I was still one month pregnant with my youngest daughter. It shook my world and left a hole I am not sure I will ever fill. That Sunday evening, he had left the house for the toilet not so far from here. I remember asking him to not be outside long, as the government had just imposed a 7 pm curfew. He was also to bring with him some omena fish for supper. But my Vitalis never returned. All my attempts at reaching him were futile.
I learnt of his murder from his aunt in the countryside when she called me the following morning. She was frantic and wondered if I knew of my husband’s whereabouts. Someone had reached her with the terrible news that his dead body was laying in the streets of Mradi. He had been brutally beaten up – to his ultimate death! I was not able to go see his body immediately. I just could not move.
My neighbors rushed to the scene and confirmed it all to be true. It was when I finally mustered the courage to view my husband’s lifeless figure that I became light-headed and weak at the knees. He bled from the head, the ears and had suffered a rupturing of the ribs. Next thing I knew, I had long passed out and spent several hours at a nearby dispensary. While I was out, carrying his corpse out of the streets had turned a violent affair. The police came and had to call for reinforcement.
Furious residents denied them carriage of the body from the scene. In fact, the gathered mob decided to bring his body to the police station themselves, on a handcart, and in earnest protest. An innocent citizen had been murdered and they were going to blame it on the Coronavirus, or call him a thug that had to be dealt with. No. They would not dishonor our community so far. And, of course, arrival to the station in its own manner was innately understood as war. The police immediately launched tear gas to the mob, which, not long afterwards, was dispersed. It was surreal. But as much as I want to be sad and grieve – I can only move on. I can only take care of my children now, who Vitalis loved with everything that he was.
Victim: Vitalis Owino
WORDS: Kanyi Wyban. PHOTO: Kongo Peter