At nine years, Juma Luyimbazi was burnt with petrol by an unidentified woman. He narrated his ordeal to Paul Waiswa.
Juma Luyimbazi survived a violent attempt on his life that robbed him of his childhood. He stared at me for minutes without uttering a single word in response to my greeting.
At last, Luyimbazi sighed heavily then seemed to realise, for the first time, that I was talking to him. Nonetheless, he could not say much, not enough to satisfy my inquiries. Later, he composed himself and responded alongside his mother. He later confessed to suffering mood swings.
It was obvious Luyimbazi is still traumatised by the life-changing experience he went through some months ago – when an unidentifi ed woman poured petrol on him and set his body ablaze.
I felt so sympathetic that I developed goose pimples all over my body as we went through the interview.
Nine-year-old Luyimbanzi was born to Abdul Luyimbazi and Shakira Nassali, both residents of Massajja Kibira zone, Makindye division in Wakiso district. He is a pupil of St. Pius Primary School in Massajja.
Two weeks before the attack, Luyimbazi had just joined Primary Four. According to his mother, she had suspected that her son was dodging school. She asked him to bring to her his books for supervision. They showed he was missing work for the previous weeks.
This compelled her to punish the young boy, but Luyimbazi sought asylum in the neighbourhood to dodge the punishment. “I wanted to punish him, but he ran away from home. Two days later, after returning home, my son was burnt,” his mother says.
The vicious attack
It was February 9, 2013 around 10:00pm. A few minutes after Luyimbazi had gone to bed, he heard a voice of a woman calling out his name, but he says he could not identify the voice’s owner.
He opened the door and followed the mysterious voice through a dark corridor, not knowing that moment would forever seal his fate.
“We all heard the woman’s voice at the doorway calling Luyimbazi,” Nassali says.
As soon as the boy reached the dark corridor, someone splashed petrol on him. The woman quickly torched him. Luyimbazi made an alarm. Unfortunately, his cry for help was frustrated by the fact that he had locked the door from the outside once he stepped out of the house.
His parents, aunt and siblings were stuck inside, helpless to respond to his screams.
“Mummy nfa [mother I am dying]”, Nassali recalls her son’s anguished cry that day as they stood separated by the locked door.
The boy ran towards the road from where a shamba boy only identifi ed as Namwanja noticed his condition. For some reason, the rescuer first went to open for those locked inside the house. Meanwhile, Juma was on fire, the great heat already doing damage on his skin.
At first, everyone was afraid to go near him for the fire was vicious. The flames were so strong that it took about ten minutes of serious effort to put them out. It was a tug of war to remove his T-shirt that was ablaze. They resorted to rolling him on the ground like a log before the fire could finally be extinguished.
Physically, Juma was tremendously affected. The burns on his body, including the stomach, sides, chest joints, hands and the face were severe.
He was immediately taken to a private clinic in Masajja for first aid but was transferred to Mulago hospital that very night since the situation was bad.
On arrival at national referral health facility, he was taken to the ice-cooling unit.
“Due to the congestion and little attention from the doctors at Mulago, we transferred him to CORSU Hospital in Kisubi, where he has been hospitalised five times,” says Luyimbazi’s mother.
The boy had to drop out of school, and is set to resume studies next year.
Luyimbazi’s family cannot fathom what might have been the cause for the attack and who was behind it. The idea that someone actually planned and executed it still chills them.
Whoever was in the house that day can confess that the voice was clearly a woman’s, but none of them could recognise it.
“We cannot tell whether the person who did it disappeared for good or we still share the same cups,” says one of the family members.
Even though there is quite a positive change following the treatment that Luyimbazi has so far received, the family still has a financial gap of sh2m to fill so as to help give Luyimbazi a chance of near-normal life.