MY PRISON STORY: Experiencing Interesting Democratic Practices in Prison


By Markson Omagor




On my way back to my Block, I saw my friend Makwasi having his head shaved. I branched there with no plan exactly, but I did. He told me if I had a razor, my head would be shaved too. Coincidentally, the barber was willing to help shave me as well. I obliged. During the process, Makwasi introduced the barber to me as a fellow Etesot and that he knew of my friends I had met at Malukhu Prisons in Mbale. I inquired of them.


“Oh Odongo and Ochola are all in Upper Prison both serving 50 year terms,” he told me.


“Is it so?” I asked.


“Even their girlfriend, the one who worked in the Super Market they robbed in Kumi was also sentenced to 50 years,” our barber intimated further.


“Was that not unfair really?” I asked having known the full story from Ogwang himself, the robber, back then in Malukhu.


“Yes it was, especially for Ochola and the girl,” he said.

The conversation about the trio continued until he told me one unfortunate person was also convicted by the same Judge after a malicious court clerk included his name in the Ogwang and company file.

“What injustice!” I exclaimed.


“How can the world be so cruel to the extent that an innocent man is serving 50 years merely because a bribed court clerk included his name in a file that he was sure was going for conviction and sentencing?” I replied in disbelief.

By the end of this conversation, my head was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The barber left for another assignment and I walked back together with Makwasi to the Ward for an afternoon shower. At about 1:00PM, the bell rang for the afternoon lock up (routine counting of prisoners to ensure none has escaped) and when another bell rang once, meaning it was successful, the Kitchen Party started ferrying in food from the Kitchen.


First was posho, whole posho and we were excited. The last two days, we had eaten sweet potatoes and the Ward had unsurprisingly turned into a farting Arena of sorts. The beans took another hour to be ferried to the joy of hunger devils. By the time food was served, I was ready to eat anything that resembled food.


The two of us were served two blocks of posho equivalent to half kg and some beans. We immediately descended on the food but were soon to be over powered by the posho. One block therefore remained untouched. This was not a problem though. There was this Mukiga man who was half mad, a situation probably caused by long incarceration whose madness seemed to be cured by loads of food. It was him, we donated the remaining block of posho and it was the fifth block he was hammering.


The Democratic Practices


That evening after the day’s last Lock Up, as Elders were celebrating the passing of yet another week, the Ward RP shut us up.

“Abari Wazee?” He greeted in a manner I got to know was routine.

“Zeeee” was the chorused reply.

“We have a problem here of leadership. We have received complaints that some of our leaders are making jail terms very difficult for some of us. I have heard that these leaders are harassing Ward members. Today I would like to call upon you to air your views openly,” he set the meeting open. Of course this address was in Kiswahili.

The first to raise his hand was a one Haruna, an old man nearing his 60th birthday. He spoke in Kiswahili with the sides of his mouth frothing and the head veins taut. I thought he was angry, very angry.

“I have lived in this Ward for over 9 months now. For all this period, I have never quarreled with the leadership of this Ward. But since the appointment of this new Cabinet, things have gone bad. There is this Robert, he is always scratching me and then calling meetings to report me to elders. If this man is not removed, a very bad thing will happen,” he sat down.

Another raised his hand and was allowed to speak. This one addressed himself to the Katikkiro.

“Katikkiro ssebo, are you aware that you are in that position because of us? Are you aware that if we decide, someone else will take over your position and you will be demoted to Kitintale slums? Now you appointed this so called cabinet. Disband it or this Ward will be in chaos..” He warned and then took his seat which was a folded prison blanket. (Kitintale slums was in reference to a sleeping position very far away from the High Command and probably next to the toilets).

Then another, speaking in Luganda.

“In village elections, foreigners are never elected to LC offices. How did it happen here in C8 that persons who have hardly spent two weeks are appointed to administrative posts?” He too sat down.

Thereafter, speaker after speaker asked the cabinet to step aside. Having read the mood well, the RP Ward pronounced himself in favor of the majority view but let his Katikkiro to wield the axe, and wield the axe he did.


“Very many words from a thief do not stop him from being handcuffed,” he started sending the Ward into a jubilant mood. The jubilation was best exemplified by Haruna who did a jig that a youth would be envious of.

The Cabinet was thus dissolved.

RP Ward then proceeded to invite members to enjoy the Karaoke of the Week.

First on the floor was our Zonto Mukiga who did an adulterated version of “my neighbor”. Really other that the ‘my neighbor words’ the rest must have been a hybrid of Rukiga and a semblance of Pidgin English. But all the same, Ward members applauded him.

The two who followed were the fans’ favorites.

The second was called BIG Drum who did mostly Lugaflow and had many Ward members join in singing with him. There were also Drummers who used empty jerrycans to spice the songs.

The third on the floor was our own Cleaner (the boy who fetched and served us food in the Ward) who did the Katikitiki song. Oh My! This boy sang this song as if it was his own. But much as it was appreciated by many, there was an air of melancholy when he was singing – it is a love song remember.

By the time, the Chameleon ‘Nkolera Mali’ fellow came on stage, the Ward was literally on fire. Nearly everyone was singing. It had to be the Ward RP to bring the show to an end because it was approaching 9:00PM, the official sleep time when all lights are switched off and maximum silence observed. So we slept, Makwasi and I, just like the night before.

That night, I spent a sleepless night. I thought about the celebrations going on outside there by my enemies. I thought about the pain, the suffering and anguish that those who love me were experiencing. Thought about how I would re-ignite my life, how I would improve or even better the lives of those who would have suffered during my absence. It was a sleepless night.

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