WARNING!: Distressing video and picture as you scroll down the page . . .
By Cecilia Okoth & Steven Candia
KAMPALA - The global viewership of footage on social media showing a housemaid in Kampala bashing and torturing an 18-month-old toddler had hit over 12.7 million by Sunday.
The footage, which went viral, drawing an outpouring of outrage had by Saturday evening drawn 4,000,000 viewers and by Sunday morning had already hit a figure of 12,765,973, with many expressing anger at the chilling and despicable act of the housemaid identified as Jolly Tumuhiirwe, 22.
In the gory footage, a visibly disgusted Tumuhiirwe is seen using a spoon to feed the child – Aneela – by force on what looks like porridge.
When the child seems to be having difficulty swallowing, she snaps out a command and blurts out: “You are crying?”
She then violently smacks the child twice in the face before proceeding to forcefully feed the child who looks visibly shaken. Perhaps due to the harsh treatment, the child throws up, drawing the full wrath of the maid.
Kamanzi and his wife at the couple’s home in Naalya. PHOTO/Henry Nsubuga
Two weeks at work
What follows next is extremely spine-chilling.
Incensed, the footage captured last week on a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera installed in the house in Naalya, a city suburb, shows the maid violently thrusting the toddler onto the floor, causing the child to scream as she falls on her face.
Tumuhiirwe proceeds to clobber the child repeatedly with what looks like a huge torch, then kicks her on the head twice before stamping on the helpless child’s back repeatedly.
Not done, she violently grabs the child with one hand and storms out of the living room.
The maid, employed by Eric Kamanzi, the father of the toddler and his wife, had only worked for two weeks.
Speaking at the New Vision offices on Saturday, Isabella Tugume, Kamanzi’s cousin, said she got the video about the same time as everyone.
“This woman nearly killed our niece!” Tugume was speaking on behalf of her cousin, who she said was too devastated to comment.
However, when New Vision called Kamanzi on Sunday morning, he said that he was glad that his daughter is alive and okay.
A grainy screengrab obtained from the disturbing video showing the maid stamping the hapless baby hard on the floor
Tugume revealed the doctors had checked Aneela and found that she was fine. However, the ordeal had left Aneela, who sustained bruises, traumatised.
“She keeps crying.”
She said the incident had left Aneela’s mother disturbed. “Aneela’s mother has been crying since the misfortune happened."
The couple has two children, the eldest being four years old. Tumuhiirwe was alone with the children whose parents were away at work.
15 years behind bars
The Director of Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (CIID), Grace Akullo, said a case had since opened at Kira Road Police Station.
The matter was first reported to Kiwatule Police post on November 13 by Aneela’s father.
The maid has since been charged in the Nakawa court under the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act (PPTA) 2012 and remanded to Luzira Prisons.
She returns to court on December 8. If found guilty, she faces up to 15 years in prison.
Fred Enanga (below), the Police spokesperson, said: “Upon arrest, Tumuhiirwe admitted to hitting the infant using a torch. She was subjected to medical tests and established to be a person of sound mind. Tumuhiirwe hails from Rukungiri.
“The charge against her has been amended to attempted murder after re-perusal by the resident state attorney and the inquiry is in advanced stages.”
He said such acts of physical abuse against children had been handled by the Police before.
“In extreme situations, maids or helpers have suffocated babies to death, stuffed them into fridges, injected them with blood infected with HIV, sexually molested infants and attempted suicide due to psychological problems and mental fits.”
Such acts, Enanga added, could be due to psychological problems suffered by the maids and helpers.
Ronald Kibuule, the state minister for youth and children affairs, who visited the family on Sunday, had private talks with the couple.
“I will advocate for the case to be changed to attempted murder. The video shows that the maid’s intention was to kill the toddler. Parents should spend more time with their children to avoid such incidents.”
“We condemn in the strongest terms this brutality and violence against children,” said Mary Karooro Okurut, the minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Speaking at and end of year party of Kampala Happi Tots, a pre-daycare school, Karoro urged parents to do a background check on maids before employing them.
She said her ministry has finalised and sent to Parliament the Children’s Amendment Act, which seeks to enhance the rights of children.
Additional reporting by Evelyn Nalule