By Moses Nampala
WHEN Owor Alele married a second wife last year, he did not buy another mattress. Instead, he decided to share the same three by six feet mattress with both women. Owor did not have a bed.
Each night the mattress was spread on the floor of the only bedroom and they slept across it so that the upper parts of their bodies were on the mattress while the legs were on a banana fibre mat.
Owor slept in the middle, his first wife Margaret Ajwang on one side and the new one, Jennipher Akello, on the other.
This went on from April to October 2009 when Mifumi, a womenâ€™s rights NGO intervened, saying it was domestic violence. With the help of Police, Owor was forced to find a house for Akello. He has settled with her and abandoned Ajwang, whom he married in 1979.
Ajwang, like any rural woman in eastern Uganda, had psychologically prepared herself for the possibility of a co-wife, but she never imagined that they would share a bed. â€œIt was such a nasty experience. You wouldnâ€™t wish it upon any other woman,â€ she said.
She dreaded the nights but having been married for 31 years, she stayed. Besides, her siblings would not have welcomed her back because culturally it was considered an abomination for a woman to leave her husband and go back to her parentsâ€™ home.
Nyakadere LC1 chairperson David Oboth said: â€œThe rivaling women would seek my intervention almost regularly, until the elder wife revealed the what she was going through.â€
Oboth tried in vain to advise Owor to get separate homes for his wives.
The Mufumi officer in charge of domestic violence, Grace Lwanga, said when Ajwang broke the silence during fellowship for victims of domestic violence, she swung into action.
â€œWe advised him to construct or rent a separate house for his new bride or face arrest,â€ recalls Lwanga.
Alere then rented Akello a house at Paya trading centre, where he runs a malwa (local brew) pub.
Tororo central police stationâ€™s officer in charge of the family and child protection unit, Sofi Nambala, said: â€œWe issued a stern warning to Alere never to indulge in such abusive behaviour again, or he would face the law.â€
But Owor has no regrets. â€œI loved my wife until five years ago when she started taking alcohol. Months would pass without finding a meal at home.
She did not even wash my clothes.â€
He also accused Ajwang of having extra-marital affairs, which she denied.
The couple has four daughters, three of whom are married. The youngest lives with her mother.