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Sunday, May 25, 2008

She had a narrow escape


It was a harrowing two days that began on Wednesday, April 16 when Boaz Mureema Hashaka, a Business Development Manager with MBH Property Services Ltd., received an alarming call; his baby girl had been kidnapped.

A small, bearded and smartly dressed man of humble countenance and light complexion entered their home in Masaja at midday masquerading as the brother of his wife, Alice Busingye. Speaking with the politeness of a monk, he said he would wait his ‘sister’s’ return from work. In the sofa as he enjoyed refreshments, he charmed the maid with homely anecdotes and crackling jokes. He was so at ease with himself, it is said, and played with the child, singing and throwing her in the air all the time saying how pretty she looked until the baby bubbled with delight. Then he told the maid he had to make an urgent call at the nearby trading centre. He would go with the lovely baby, and even asked the child be wrapped in her nappy so that she doesn’t urinate on him.

All this happened in two hours and never did the housemaid grow suspicious. In shocking shortsightedness and naivety, the maid went about with her chores without taking a moment to question the delay of the man that had gone to make a brief ‘phone call’.

Hashaka’s young brother who coincidentally returned from university asked about the child and was told she was with “Alice’s brother who has gone to make a phone call.” The maid didn’t know the man’s name. And had she seen him before? No. Strange. Amon immediately called Hashaka. Hashaka called Alice. Alice called her brothers. No one had picked her baby. Shock. Panic. Pain…

Anora Busingye, for that is the baby’s name, is angelic and staggeringly beautiful. Smiling, crawling and quiet contemplation are her favourite pastimes. She is six months old.

Busingye, a Finance and Administration Officer with National Water and Sewerage Corporation, narrates her ordeal from the moment she learned about the devastating disappearance of her daughter:

“I was in my office when I received the shattering news. I somehow ran mad, I think, I lost my senses; tears were running down my eyes. I rushed to a colleague to drive me home immediately. Every one at my workplace was running after me asking what has happened. “I cried. But as I was crying I was telling God this can’t be, I dedicated my child to You. I’ve always prayed for my child because when I was giving birth, I suffered long and excruciating labour pain and I thought I was going to die. So when I gave birth I said this is just a gift from You God, so I dedicate this daughter to You Lord.

"When we reached home, I found the maid crying. And she was saying Aunt nsanyuwa(forgive me). I don’t know how the devil blinded me. Neighbours were beating her up, saying she had sold my baby. When you are overwhelmed by a situation you can’t cry. She was trying to cry but no tear would come. And the neighbours would say, “look at her, she knows everything and she’s pretending. How can such an old lady (she’s 26) give up the baby?” I knew she was innocent; the thug had taken advantage of her slowness to take my daughter. So I shouted at everyone to stop beating her.

“I remembered reports of child sacrifices and an eerie feeling gripped me. I thought my child was dead. But I said no, my child cannot die because she’s a child of God.“Friends, relatives and colleagues gave us words of hope and lots of encouragement and joined us in prayer; we prayed all night, hope returned and by morning I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that I would see my daughter again.”

As for Hashaka, he couldn’t imagine his only daughter in the hands of deleterious elements. Fright mighty as death haunted him. He got a special hire taxi. But it was too slow; he jumped out and mounted boda-boda motorcycle. That too was crawling like a tortoise, forcing him to jump off too and sprint like a mad man. “There is losing the child and you bury,” he said distraughtly, “but taking your child and you don’t know whether she’s alive –it is very bad. I felt so terrible.”

They were still dazed, exactly five hours into the kidnap when the ‘mafia’ called. Laughing, and raving in perfect Luganda, he barked his demands: “Don’t tip the police or the press, I want tin of chloroform and Shs.1.5m, 10p.m tonight. Play games and I’ll bring you the full damage of your beloved baby without second thoughts. Call me again at 9.45p.m.”

By this time, a joint operation of police and army detectives had swung into movie-like action. They traced the phone call to some hideout and raided it. At about 3p.m on Thursday, they found the baby unharmed in the hands of the vandals in a greasy dump in Makindye.

Hashaka could not contain his joy, and tears of relief rolled down his wife’s face. Handing over the child to the parents, Godson Nsekanamo, DPC Katwe, said this was one of the swiftest and most successful operations (it took less than 12 hours to recover the child.)

“Once we caught someone with a baby’s head in a kaveera; these cases were quite rampant when we had sacrificing of children but of recent they had subsidised. From last year to date, we had not received any such case of child theft until this one,” he said. He advised parents to educate their maids out of ignorance.

The two criminals will be charged with child stealing, which amounts to six years in jail upon conviction. Parents should watch out. The sordid truth is that heartless people will always lurk and pounce on innocent children, whom they see as a license to make money.

So little Anora was fatigued but a thorough medical checkup confirmed she was ok. The warmth and intelligence in her eyes was still there and quieted the tumult of all who had been worried pale about her wellbeing.

--The Daily Monitor, May 3, 2008