NIGHTMARE IN GULU TOWN-Lilian Nabaggala narrates

The 28th of December was a day of sharing joy, excitement and celebration at Acholi Inn. The matrimonial wedding of our friends’ groom Ojom Martin and bride Justina Joyce becoming one as the Ojom family was a blessing to their relationship. It would become a day I would never forget, but for other reasons entirely. 

A mix up involving our accommodation saw us being driven and abandoned at Florida Hotel which we would soon be told was out of rooms, however, the ‘Manager’ claimed to have a partnership with KSP Hotel which had vacant rooms and he proceeded to lead us on a nerve-wracking 10mins walk through a dark street

When we finally arrived, he insisted on staying around to make sure we got rooms before heading back. The rooms didn’t seem safe, however, we asked whether they had a room with 2 beds so we could sleep in one room for safety purposes.

 Our ‘inability’ to zero in on a room seemed to upset the ‘Manager’ of Florida who quarrelled and walked off in a huff, mumbling words in Acholi. 

We finally settled for two rooms opposite each other (room 21 and 23-second floor) and the receptionist left us to settle in.

After about 2 mins he came back and requested us to register – given how exhausted we were, we asked politely if he could bring the registration book to our room, but he insisted on us going downstairs to sign at the reception desk. 

Shamsa, Racheal and I gave in and followed him downstairs. We asked for his name to which he responded saying he was Joel. As Joel handed us the registration book, a man of about 23-24 years, dressed in a green t-shirt and black pants seated on the left side of the counter eating food out of a black polythene bag rudely called out, ‘’You come here!’’ to the four of us.

We asked him, ‘’who exactly?’’ and he pointed at Shamsa who replied, ‘’am sorry I will not come because I don’t know you.’’ 

He kept on persisting until Shamsa walked over where he ordered her to sit down next to him. She refused to do so and walked away, and stood to the right of the counter on her phone waiting for us. ‘’I have money!” he shouted, “I am the police and I can beat you all.’’ 

We ignored him and I kept on registering my details. What followed next is painful to put into words.

He got up, walked swiftly past me and stood behind Shamsa and punched her twice on the back of her head. She immediately knelt down and begged for his forgiveness, apologizing as if we had done anything wrong, but he kept hitting her until I turned and screamed, ‘’what have we done to you! why are you beating my friend!’’ 

I ran towards him trying to stop him by pulling him away, all while the receptionist simply looked on, unhelpful, from behind the counter. He turned and chased me towards the exit staircase where I walked backward asking him what we had done but he said nothing and kept coming at me. 

Realizing I would slip off the stairs, I tried to dodge him but he pulled me by the dress, lifted me and dropped me on my back as he hit my head on the reception counter, punching my right cheek, forehead, ribs and started choking me. 

I almost lost my breath but kicked his stomach and ran off the ground to Shamsa and Racheal we kept running and banging on doors for help, all in vain until the receptionist directed us to room 2 that was partially open but the people pushed and closed it when we tried to run in. 

Our attacker chased us towards the corridor to the balcony where he punched my back and then grabbed Shamsa by her braids, dragged her on the floor and hit her head on the wall several times as he kicked her too, we ran screaming ‘’Askariii’’ and dogs were barking but no one showed up. 

We came back as the receptionist was trying to pull him away as he tried to throw her off the balcony, Shamsa managed to escape and we ran up the stairs screaming and he still chased us to the second where we met Grace who opened the room 21 but we forgot the key outside. 

We panicked and the inner door handle broke so the only solution was pulling the dressing mirror and bed together to block the door as we wept and screamed for help. We made phone calls to Jackie and Eddie and none of them picked up then we called Walter but we couldn’t speak but rather just cried, screamed until he asked for the location which we gave him and in 10mins he was at KSP hotel with Eddie power and Stuart 2 of whom were groom’s men who rescued us. 

We thereafter ran downstairs and the receptionist directed us outside to where the guy had been but he was not there so he decided to call him but he didn’t pick the phone call. That our attacker was well known by the receptionist raised our eyebrows. So, Eddie power drove us to the Gulu CPS and Walter stayed behind with Stuart and the receptionist made a phone call to Florida ‘Manager’ who it turns out was actually an askari and when he was asked to give a statement at CPS, he threatened to fight our friends and ran away as the receptionist also ran into the hotel and locked himself up in a room. 

At the Gulu Central Police Station, we found a police female receptionist at the desk, opposite her, was one seated on waiting area benches who showed no remorse towards our crying and weeping. We asked for a CID or anyone who could register our case so they called the DC on duty who came with another soldier wearing a blue camouflage uniform with the name Afoyo but he said his name was David. We narrated the story twice and the DC requested the lady at the reception to open an assault case for me and Shamsa.

We requested the Police to pick up the KSP hotel receptionist and we eavesdropped a phone conversation of the DC talking to someone who was investigating the crime scene plus the room in which we had sought refuge. After getting off the phone he told us that the receptionist couldn’t come to the police that night because he was not able to leave work since he was alone on duty and had no one to leave behind so they couldn’t bring him to the station.

 This was bizarre and perplexing and we were requested to come back the next day 29th December at 9 am. And we were taken back to Acholi Inn where the bride and groom hugged us walked us to the room where we rested weeping all night.

On the morning of the 29th, Racheal, Shamsa, Grace, Walter and I waited from 9 am to 11 am outside the Police station because there was a suspect parade and we had to wait till it was done. Soon after, we met the OC ICD Mr. Pande Grace Davis who listened in as we narrated our story he made a phone call to a detective who drove to KSP hotel with Walter to pick the manager, but he was not there and it was only a female receptionist who said that Joel was not on duty and when they called the manager he had gone out of town. When he was called again his phone was off hence No one was arrested. 

All this raised suspicion of a coordinated assault. Was the guy’s intention to steal and assault us physically?  We don’t know!  But as we go back and forth to hospital nursing wounds, the scars of this nightmare burn deep. Not just physically, but psychologically as well. Justice has the be brought and the hotel closed down until justice is got!

Writer: Lilian Maxmillian Nabaggala, Dancer

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Frank Byaruhanga is a human rights activist with years of experience in community dialogues, digital communication, advocacy and digital campaigns. He specializes in Media Relation Work, Management and Training with sufficient knowledge in Governance, Accountability, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Youth-led research, Content developer, Creative Activism, Social Media Management and documentary photography.

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