MBARARA. A week since a woman allegedly murdered seven family members in Nombe II B Village, Kashare Sub County in Mbarara, evidence of the murder has not been wiped away.
There is dried blood on the floor and walls of the house and kitchen, where Lydia Kyomuhangi, 50, is said to have hacked her daughter, granddaughter and five step grandchildren to death, and nearly ended the life of her husband.
The victims lived in three homes, about 50 meters apart, separated by banana plantations and gardens.
The spot in the compound from which she was lynched by the angry residents in revenge on Monday morning was also caked with blood.
“We have not registered a criminal incident of that nature in the three years I have served in Mbarara,” John Bosco Mutabazi, the OC CIID Mbarara says.
Kyomuhangi had been married to George Hangamaisho Kooma, 65, for over 20 years and they had three children together. Sharon Ainembabazi, 23, Justus Muzahura, 22, and Johnson Muhendo, 20. Ainembabazi is a nursery teacher in Hoima while Muzahura and Muhendo are students in college and secondary school respectively.
At the time she got married to Kooma, Kyomuhangi already had a daughter, Annet Kyomukama, who also had a daughter Apofia Kanshabe.
Kooma married Kyomuhangi after he lost his first wife with whom he had had five children – two boys and three girls.
On that fateful day…
Kyomuhangi had seemed okay.
Her husband Kooma narrated the events to his brother Mr Nathan Kinungu from his sick bed at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital where he was admitted with severe cuts on the face and limbs inflicted on him by Kyomuhangi on the fateful day.
“The woman prepared lunch and they ate together. After that, she sorted beans which she would cook for supper as Kooma rested. While he was asleep, the woman came with a panga and spear and started cutting him. They wrestled until she left him for dead. She then attacked her daughter and her child who were in same house and the grandchildren who were in the kitchen,” Kinungu told mourners on Monday.
Kyomuhangi took the life of her daughter, Kyomukama, 25, and her granddaughter Kanshabe, 10. She also killed Mercy Owomugisha, one-and-a- half-year-old, Osbert Nuwananya, eight, and Oscar Tarimweba, five, children of her step-son, Mr Jonan Nduhura. Nduhura is now childless.
Claire Ankunda five, and Adella Orishaba, nine months-old did not survive the attack. They were children of Mr Junior Aribariho, another step-son of Kyomuhangi, who is also a builder.
Aribariho has been left with one child who was living with her aunt in Buremba Sub County Kiruhura District at the time the rest were murdered.
According to Nduhura’s narration, Kyomuhangi lured the five children into the kitchen with sodas and mandazi before she hacked them to death, in what appears to have been a planned move.
“I don’t know why this punishment came to us and what brought it,” Mr Nduhura said.
Though Kyomuhangi is said to have suffered mental illness some years back, residents say that there were no signs that she would do something this gruesome to her family members.
“We went and married the woman and brought her here when she was very okay, she had no sickness. But about five years ago her daughter developed a mental illness. The mother too later developed the same problem, we took her for prayers and she somehow stabilised,” Kinungu said.
The village chairperson Mr Charles Baryabuuza says Kyomuhangi was doing her domestic activities normally and had been living in harmony with her stepchildren and grandchildren.
“When she first had mental challenges she was taken to church prayed for and she got better. She was never taken to any health facility because she never required medical attention. It’s her daughter [Kyomukama] who was really mentally ill and who was getting medical care regularly and was chained in the house because she was violent,” Mr Baryabuuza said.
At the time of her death, Kyomukama was confined in the house with her daughter.
However, not everyone agrees with the notion that Kyomuhangi was generally peaceful.
Her son Muhendo says, “She was not mentally stable and she had always complained that my father wants to kill her.”
What could have led to the act?
The community is buzzing with new information of what could have driven Kyomuhangi to kill her family members. According to Baryabuuza the locals say that the mother of Kyomuhangi, only identified as Katharina could have sent demons her way that led her to turn violent. Baryabuuza says it is alleged Katharina wants her property that Kyomuhangi took when she got married to Kooma.
“They say she is demanding from the home of Kooma, regardless of her the death of her daughter, orugari [winnowing basket], two jerry cans, five sauce pans and orusaniya [big metallic serving plate].
Milton Tumusiime, 35, Kooma’s nephew, said the same, adding that she has threatened to do further harm to their family.
He also says Katharina who lives in Rwembabi village, Mutoozo Parish in Kashare Sub County did not attend the burial of her daughter.
Mr Godwin Mugisha, the LCII Chairman Nchune parish says the woman had been ill for a while.
“She had spent about two years with mental illness. She used to isolate herself and say strange things. However, he added, “She was never violent at all. She stayed peacefully with husband; they stayed in the same house. The husband accepted her state and even changed from Church of Uganda (Anglican) and they both started praying from the church of Born Agains.”
It’s hard to imagine what is going on in the minds of Nduhura and Aribariho and their wives who have lost their children. “God will give you other children,” Mr Kinungu told his nephews and their wives at the burial. When asked how he was coping, Nduhura said, “I lost all my children,” and hung up on the phone.
One of a kind
This is one of the worst killings that has taken place in Mbarara and the neigbouring districts in the past 10 years. Past acts of homicides in the area have mainly been occasioned criminals targeting property. Normally the victims are one or two people.
Notable is the murder of Duncan Kagume 25 a student at Makerere University of Business School (MUBS) Mbarara branch and Ronald Mwesigye, 30, a boda boda cyclist. The two were hacked to death with pangas by thugs on September 28, 2013 in their rented house in Nkokonjeru, Kamukuzi Division.
On September 29, 2013 Special Police Constable Yassin Kenny, 30, was hacked to death by thugs in Bagdad cell, Rugazi Kakoba Division. Other gruesome attacks happened in Sheema District in 2013 when thugs armed with machetes carried out systematic attacks and injured at least 15 by end of the year. Most of these victims were killed by people they did not know.
The murder of seven people by Kyomuhangi, was therefore horrifying and heart-wrecking.
Though Kyomuhangi is said to have killed when she was not in a right state of mind, police say her lynching by the residents in revenge is punishable by law.
“All those people who participated in the mob justice will be arrested and charged with murder,” Mr Mutabazi said.
He adds, “They shouldn’t take law into their hands. They knew the woman was mentally ill but that was temporary.” Families with people who have mental sickness, Mr Mutabazi says, should alert police to assist in taking them to mental treatment facilities.
Prof. Samuel Maling, the former head of psychiatry department at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), former dean faculty of medicine MUST, and currently a lecturer and researchers says witchcraft does not cause mental illness.
“In science we don’t believe in witchcraft. It’s a bad belief. The community needs to know that mental illness is caused by real issues that can be addressed and not witchcraft,” Prof. Maling says.
He adds, “The real cause of mental illness are chemicals that control functioning of our brains. When they are not properly regulated you get mental illness. You can inherit the problem that makes these chemicals not work properly. Then there are things in the environment that cause you mental illness-the triggers. It can be diseases like HIV or syphilis; drugs and alcohol; it can be stress which is brought by so many things like money and school fees issues, loss of a job; it can be trauma because of war like people in northern Uganda. Those are the things that trigger mental illness.”
According to the professor, Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital has a psychiatry ward with a 40-bed capacity. He says that on a daily basis you will find at least 30 admitted mentally ill patients. Outpatient clinics are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the specialists see at least 150 cases on each of these days. They also carry out outreaches in Rubidi Sub County in Kashari Mbarara and Mushanga in Sheema District once a month.
In treating mental illness the specialists use drugs (different types), counselling, and rehabilitation
The other treatment used is Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). “We use a machine that passes a dose of currents. This is used in treatment of sicknesses which are very complicated. We rarely use ECT,” says Prof. Maling, adding, “Actually we combine all these forms of treatment except ECT; we use drugs and at the same time talk to the patient.”
Prof. Maling says most mentally ill people don’t seek treatment. He says only two in 10 mentally sick people are taken to hospitals.
“The rest are out there without treatment maybe because of lack of knowledge or resources. It’s an issue in the whole country; it’s not only in Mbarara. But in Mbarara we have mentally ill people who are chained in legs and arms and are confined in homes,” he says.
The other mental treatment centres in Mbarara are Mayanja Memorial Hospital but Prof. Maling says the facility rarely admit the patients.
Other people go to clinics because they fear that they will be labelled mentally ill when they go to the psychiatry ward at the referral hospital.
The symptoms and signs of mental illness include exaggeration of behavior such as being persistently sad, too much happiness, sleeping little or too much, talking in a way that people don’t understand, and aggressiveness.
“Mental illness affects one’s relationship with other people. Fellow workers or peers disassociate themselves from you. The extreme ones may take their own lives and also take lives of others,” he says.
Sadly this was what it led to in Kyomuhangi’s case, bringing to an abrupt and painful halt, and the lives of seven innocent young souls.