A hot pursuit of a suspected thief in a crowded trade fair zone in Kampala ends with the chasing police officer unable to swim across the pool and him needing helping hands.
By Joseph Kizza
Everyone has one or two things that they are good at, right? For one Kampala-based Police officer, swimming is not one of them.
While on patrolling duty at a bustling trade fair in Kampala on Independence Day (Wednesday), the officer's determined pursuit of a suspected thief through the crowded grounds of the Uganda Manufacturers' Association (UMA) at Lugogo brought him face to face with one of his inabilities - swimming.
His commendable steely resolve to catch the runaway suspect unfortunately reduced him to struggling for his life in the murky waters of a pond on location. It is not a battle he would have won without the priceless intervention of some of the visitors, who elected to briefly put on hold their fun and run to the rescue of the panicky cop.
While the fate of the suspect was not immediately known, it was a happy ending for the man who was so intent on catching him.
But how exactly did he get himself into this quagmire?
It started out with a distress call. A thief had reportedly made off with an item.
Upon getting wind of this development, police officer Muyomba acted quickly, drawing from the instinctiveness of a man trained just for such scenarios. He gave chase.
Within the grounds, there is a large pond fenced off to prevent episodes such as the one unfolding here happening.
With the officer hot on his heels, the suspect scrambled over the fence, hit the waters and noisily propelled himself across to the other side, before leaping over the fence and disappearing into the crowd.
The cop tried to keep the chase going, but the situation quickly turned from determination to desperation in a matter of seconds. As soon as he had sprung into the waters, Muyomba - going by his uniform name tag - realised he had bitten off more than he could chew.
Clearly unable to swim, he made a distressed cry out for help. He appeared to have suffered a knock near the corner of his left eye, with blood trickling from the wound. But for a man staring death right before him, the laceration was the least of his worries.
His immediate object was to get out of that water - somehow.
He barely kept his face above the water.
By this time, a sizeable crowd had gathered at the fence, helplessly watching on in horror and anguish as Muyomba struggled to grasp every straw of life possible in the hope that rescue would arrive.
And rescue did finally come.
Some young men climbed over the fence in a move to save the drowning cop. But it was never going to be easy . . .
Standing on the ledge, with one hand gripping the fence mesh, they reached out down with the other hand in the direction of the policeman, but their offers were so near yet so far.
But time was not their ally. Every second mattered.
They had to reach the distressed man. It was not going to happen with outstretched arms. They had to think quick . . .
Something longer was needed.
A broom, maybe?
Yes. "It's now or never," the rescuers might have thought.
If you have near-drowned before - like I did about two decades ago - the flashing of images of one's life is common. You wonder whether such imagery flashed before Muyomba's eyes during that moment of ghastly trepidation.
But what you can be certain of is his sense of relief when he finally clutched at the proverbial straw in the form of the broomstick stretched out for him to seize.
He seized the opportunity, and soon, more than just his face and fingers was out of the water.
But it was not over yet.
Hauling the drenched man out of the water was another struggle itself.
But in an admirable display of teamwork, the police officer's rescuers linked well to have two of them lower down off the steep escarpment to heave a breathless Muyomba out of the murky waters.
For a man that was only doing his job of keeping law and order, trying to bring down a suspected thief, Muyomba will have been delighted with being on the receiving end of help.
His uniform was intact by the time he emerged from the water.
A huge applause to these men who put their own lives at risk to save that of another human being.
Bravery, determination and, most importantly, teamwork lifted Muyomba from the jaws of death.
Meanwhile, the officer's black beret sat stilly on the water after its beholder's dramatic rescue.
Even on dry land, Muyomba had to be helped over the fence by his rescuers.
The police officer will have heaved a huge sigh of relief after being pulled out alive.
He appeared understandably dazed after that horrific experience. However much he will wish to forget that day, it is one of those experiences that are stubbornly difficult to shake out of one's amygdala.
It may have been Independence Day, but Muyomba found himself having to depend on the quick-thinking and brotherly intervention of well-wishing citizens.
He was swiftly whisked off the scene by a group of men, including an Elpa Uganda paramedic, to receive medical attention.
Muyomba had seen too much in a very short time. He was glad to have been spared.
It was then time to search for his gun under the water.
What a day!