Simon Obonyo was last seen on Christmas Day. The stories surrounding his death are still a puzzle, right from suspected mob justice to vengeance writes Charles Etukuri.
It was Christmas Day and the family was preparing supper. Seventeen-yearold Simon Obonyo wanted to bathe before joining other family members that evening. The first born in the family of four, he was living with his mother Rosette Amal in Kireka. He had just finished his S4 at St. John Secondary School in Bweyogerere and was looking forward to joining A’level.
“Obonyo wanted to work so that he could raise some money for himself during his vacation and when he asked me, I okayed it,” Amal says. “When an opportunity availed itself, he got a job at a boutique that belonged to a friend on Kamuli road in Kireka. He bought himself a bike, which he used to ride every day to work.”
On Christmas Day, Obonyo chose not to work and stayed home with his family as he helped them with the house chores. At around 5:00pm, his friend, a neighbour known to the family, Faizal, called him out. Obonyo promised he would be back but that was the last the family saw him alive.
When supper was ready at around 8:00pm, Amal sent Obonyo’s younger sister to look for him, but in vain. Amal tried calling relatives and some of his friends, but all of them told her they had not seen him. “Maybe he had slept at a friend’s place and would return later or the next day, I resignedly told myself,” she says.
The following day, Obonyo had not resurfaced. At around 2:00pm, one of his aunties came to visit the family. Amal was escorting her to board a car, when they met two of Obonyo’s friends. The boys looked frightened and seemed to have news for her but they did not tell her anything. That evening, she again called her relatives, but none of them had seen Obonyo.
Amal says that evening Obonyo’s employer came to their home and asked for him. “I was inside the house but I heard him asking my daughter whether Obonyo was at home. By the time I came out, he was already gone. I had personally not met him but I knew he was called Ronnie,” she says. Ronnie came back the next morning and this time met Obonyo’s mother at home. “I was lighting a charcoal stove to prepare a meal when he squatted next to me,” she says. Ronnie then offered to light the stove. “I had never met him, yet he was being so nice to me,” she says.
Ronnie actually had news about her son’s disappearance. “Your son was seriously beaten by a mob after being accused of stealing a phone. I have been told that he was taken to Mulago Hospital in critical condition,” says Amal. The news was hard-hitting.
“I knew my son well. He was disciplined and there was no way he could steal anything. For as long as I have lived with him, I had never seen such a vice in him,” she says.
Ronnie insisted that it was true and that a neighbour who had a shop near the boutique, where he was operating had seen the badly injured Obonyo being taken to hospital by a Police patrol car that same day he went missing. He then asked Amal to give him two boys so that they could go and corroborate the story.
When the two boys went to the alleged woman who had the information and was also a local pastor, she denied having said that. Armed with the scanty information, Amal went to Kireka Police Station and was told the Police had picked up a young man who had been beaten and seriously injured by a mob and taken him to Mulago Hospital casuality wing.
At the hospital, they were told that the person who had been brought from Kireka had died fi ve minutes after he had been admitted. In the mortuary, lying naked in the freezer was Obonyo, his head severely hacked at and body covered in bruises. His tormentors had also pushed a stick through his anus and it had ruptured his stomach.
Was it justice?
The family believes that Obonyo was deliberately lured to his death. According to a statement from Obonyo’s friend who was immediately arrested after the family reported that he was last seen with him, they were moving in a group of seven when they met a group of girls who were moving with a boy identified as Moses. One of the boys in his group grabbed a phone from one of the girls and took off. All the other seven members fled and left Obonyo all alone. It was then that Moses grabbed him and fi ght between the two ensued.
When Obonyo overpowered Moses, raised an alarm, attracting boda boda riders near the Namugongo Road stage who, without asking, pounced on him and started beating him.
His pleas of innocence fell on deaf ears. The friend says he watched the events unfold and knew the people who beat him. At the stage, the riders who participated in the beating say they were convinced the boy was a thief.
The family, however, says the deceased had been warned by someone that he would harm him after he found him with his stolen bike. “His bike was stolen from home and it was the same Faizal who told him that he could help recover the bike if he gave him a reward of sh10,000,” says the mother.
According to Amal, Obonyo paid the money and the two headed to the neighbouring Kasokoso village, where they met the boy who fi rst denied having stolen the bike. “After Obonyo threatened to take him to the Police and even slapped him he led them to where he had hidden the bike,” adds the Amal.
When Obonyo came back home he told the mother what had transpired and that the boy had warned him of dire consequences. Family members believe it was Obonyo’s friend Faizal who could have stolen the bike and sold it to this boy but it was only after he failed to pay for the bike that he exposed him. They also believe that the boy could have gone through Faizal again to woo him away from home so that he could carry out his revenge.
Did the boy make good his threat that same day? Why have all the friends who were with him, including Faizal who lured him that night and his boss Ronnie suddenly gone hiding? Why didn’t the boy who claimed he saw Obonyo being beaten not run to the nearest Police post or even back to their home which was so near to call for help? The family is waiting for answers.
Meanwhile the suspect was released the other week and the file that was being handled by Kiira Division is now before the CIID headquarters.