By Markson Omagor
The Cadet Officer handed me over to the Officer in charge of the night that day.
“My friend can you remove your belt, shoes, wallet and phone?” The officer commanded me.
And I said to myself, ‘is this the good treatment I had been promised?’
I removed my shoes first, then the belt, wallet and phone in that order and handed them over to the Counter. It was approaching 7:00PM and I had barely eaten from the time my breakfast plans were rudely interrupted.
Another female Afande picked me from the Counter and led me towards the cells; still i had not found what to say. I did not exactly know what lay ahead.
But when we approached the male cell, I froze.
From the door way – which was a heavy metallic burglar proof door, I saw it was heavily over populated. Many of the cellmates were struggling to be at the doorway in order to be able to get some fresh air. I could very easily smell a foul odor and so were their words.
“Afande leta Mafena uyo hapa,” I heard them say something I interpreted to mean a big jackfruit. I shivered again. I had heard of prison stories where new inmates were sodomised and abused in many ways and I thought;
‘Yeah, this is my turn,” although I refused to believe it was going to happen to me.
Then the words came out.
“Afande, are you really going to let me sleep inside that cell?” I begged.
“Can you find me another cell for God’s sake,” I pleaded as the realities of prison started taking form.
She checked the female cell and found it empty. And that is where she locked me in to my satisfaction.
But hardly had I spent 30 minutes inside that cell than I regretted having asked for ‘special treatment.’
The silence was overbearing, bringing out the bitter reality that I was now a prisoner, my job on the line, my reputation, my friends, my children, my wife, my girlfriend Sarah and most painfully my freedom were all lost to me.
A torrent of tears flooded my cheeks and I let them flow freely; it was only the mucus – a loyal escort of tears that I continually blew at my already wetted handkerchief. The crying I think made me oblivious of another problem- mosquitos were biting me with a venom I could not understand. The floor was very cold and I had nothing to place on it as a bed for the night.
I called out to the female officer who was now seated at the night shift office which was about 10 meters away. It was almost 8:00PM.
“What is it again?” She asked as she moved towards my lonely cell.
I told her I could not handle the cell alone; the mosquitos were murderous, the loneliness was torturous and the cold was unbearable.
She looked at me sympathetically before revealing that she was actually contemplating moving me out of the cell because three women had been arrested and were to spend the night there.
According to her, it was worse for me to share a cell with women and that was out of experience. She explained that whereas the men taunted new inmates, they hardly molested them. It was however different for the women- they were mostly sex perverts.
She unlocked the cell door and moved with me to her office. There, she gave some used paper boxes to act as my bed. She also gave me space just next to where she had laid her bed – also made of paper boxes but of course she had a blanket. In other words, the young officer whom I later discovered was a tribesmate not only risked reprimand from her supervisors but actually became my roommate for the night.
Later, even after the comfort, I broke down again and cried. The cry woke her up from her sleep and from then on she became my counselor.
She told me of how three district heads from Kapchorwa had been arrested by the IGG and were also brought in to Mbale CPS. She told me, they equally cried but that they were now free men.
“So you should not worry, you will come out, may be even tomorrow on bail.” She counseled and indeed I started plotting on how to secure bail.
I was aware I was going to be arraigned before court the following day, my case read to me and of course I would deny the charges and then my lawyer would ask for bail.
He would reason that am a family man with a permanent address who did not give the arresting officers any trouble and with high chances of winning the case in court. One obstacle though would be the sureties and bail money.
My mind went into a planning session ultimately stopping the crying. I knew how to raise at least three million, and I listed down the names of possible sureties. I also planned on how to get a medical report showing I had very bad ulcers, ulcers because it is a disease not seen by mere eyes so the Magistrate would not disagree with the medical report.
I woke up at 4:00AM only to realize that my bladder was nearly bursting. My roommate was sound asleep, her gun lying helplessly besides her. I started thinking of possibilities of escape but I had many NOS.
I first I did not understand the geography of the station. Secondly, the option of gaining freedom through a bail application was more appealing. Thirdly, I knew a fugitive life was very difficult. I chose to wake her up and ask for permission to go out to the toilets.
She simply told me to move out and turn right and she went back to sleep.
I moved out, eased myself and went back to the cell office and rejoined the Afande.