By Markson Omagor
After the police officer handed me over to a Prison Warder, I was gently without handcuffs led down towards the main gate to the Anti-Corruption where I got know housed the Court’s Cells.
I asked the Warder whether I could be permitted to use my phone to make a few calls before departure to Luzira and he said it was fine.
The first call I made was to my wife Agnes, then in our Serere Country home. Unfortunately, the person who received the call was my daughter Emmah.
“Where is mummy?” I asked her unwilling to break the sad news to her. She told me she had just picked the phone from the Trading Center where they had taken it for charging in anticipation of receiving good news from Kampala.
Aware that time was racing against me, I then called my fiancée, Sarah whom I had rented a house for in Mbale town. Sarah received at the instant.
“Sarah, I have been convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment,” I told her after a short greeting.
“Mark, stop joking around, you know that is a very bad joke,” she replied in what looked like self-denial to me.
“Sarah get this from me, this is the last call you may receive from until after 8 months. And I repeat am only spending 8 months and I will be back.”
That is when it dawned on her that I was dead serious. She broke down and cried pitifully painfully as I listened. A well of tears rolled down my eyes for the first time that day. But I took a minute or so and composed myself because at that very minute I realized it was only me who could strength to my loved ones.
“Sarah, it is okay, I will be back, trust me,” I counseled her. In reply she promised to wait for me.
“Mark, don’t worry about me, I will wait for you. Baby Arthur will miss you however, goodbye,” she said amidst sobs. Sarah had just given birth to a baby boy whom I had just bathed the previous evening before travelling to Kampala for what then turned out to be my imprisonment.
Then I called village again. My wife received the phone with the kind of anxiety that can cause a heart attack.
When I broke the news, my wife broke into a wail and we could not continue with any discussion and yet she was the one I had many instructions to give.
Given the circumstances, I chose to give the instructions to my brother Geoffrey who in turn as to travel back to the village and help her in implementing them. Immediately I finished instructing Geoffrey, he left to catch transport back to Mbale. It was Matthew who stayed and watched the pain of seeing his brother finally being handcuffed to a stranger and matched into a prison bus which arrived at the Court premises at 5:00pm prompt.
We reached Luzira towards 7:00PM and I was among the few who were taken to Murchison Bay Prison. (Luzira is a prison complex consisting of Kampala Remand, Murchison Bay, Women Prison and the notorious Upper Maximum Prison.)
At the Gate we were made to squat in the handcuffed pairs as the counting took place. We were counted in pairs and made to leave behind our belongings except shirts and trousers. And because it was late, there was no time to open ‘Accounts” for us new inmates. Accounts are opened for every prisoner. An account bears a number you must cram, in that account are your personal belongings and money. I had known about this at least during my remand time.
Convinced that all prisoners who had gone to the various courts (on appeals) and new inmates corresponded, we taken to the various Wards (Cells). The old went to their respective Wards meanwhile I was taken to Ward B which I later realized was a reception Ward. It had less than 50 inmates, so it was spacious, clean, less noisy and generally organized. I told myself if I was going to spend my 8 months in this Ward, then I will suffer less. Alas! Little did I know that the following day I would be moved and put in my ‘place.’
I met an old Makerere University OB, whom I will only call Oucul playing cards with others. In my confusion, I failed to recognize him, it is him who recognized and came to greet me. I met some comfort in just knowing that prison was not only for me. I however, slept on an empty stomach after RP Kitchen brought a semblance of sweet potatoes, I say a semblance because they were more of fibre than potatoes and then the beans were not more than 5 in the plate with almost a half-cup of soup that looked like they had added water after cooking.
I found refuge in the one Mandazi Matthew had bought for me and my 500 litre of drinking water. And so I slept on a blanket I was offered and covered myself on another. Remember I went to court unprepared for prison, so I had nothing on me.