Mental Health: Testimony of the Walking Dead

Following the acts of terror unleashed on journalists who were covering a National Association of the Unemployed procession by Old Kampala DPC Joram Mwesigye on Monday, this site WBS Cameraman Andrew Lwanga has for the first time spoken out on events that happened on the fateful day.

In an interview with ChimpReports on Sunday at Nsambya hospital where he had been admitted after being clobbered on the head, for sale 28 year old Lwanga explains that after covering the press conference for the youth, they proceeded to march to the city centre from where they(youth) could head to the office of the police chief in Naguru.

“As we approached Shell fuel station along Namirembe road, a white Toyota Mark II series driving at terrible speed arrived before the DPC and 3 other police officers jumped out. They then embarked on trying to arrest the youth but they spread as they run for their life,” Lwanga explains.

“As the DPC tried to chase one of the youth who had run towards Old Kampala Secondary School play ground, he fell down and all cameras were all over him. He tried to smash my camera but I ran away and got into his car and drove towards the police station.”

According to Lwanga, the Toyota Mark II series spent a few minutes before coming back and dispersing youth who were by this time interacting with journalists as they interviewed them adding that most of them ran towards the city centre before branching off at a nearby restaurant.

“At this time 2 policemen followed the youth who at this time tried to escape but had no way and arrested them before the DPC’s car Mark II arrived and he forced the 2 youth into the back seats,” the 28 year journalist narrates.

“I was now left in between the 2 policemen and the DPC .The latter then started beating whoever was around him. He first tried to smash my camera but I remained firm before he hit me with the tick at the head and I fell down in pain.”

Lwanga narrates that at this time Mwesigye bundled him in the front seat of his car before driving off swiftly towards Old Kampala police station.


“I thought he was heading to Mulago for first aid but I was surprised when on reaching the police station, he ordered me to be put in the coolers. I told him I was feeling a lot of pain but ordered me to sit down with the suspects in the cells and that’s when I became unconscious.”

The journalist further explains that he only regained consciousness on Wednesday but stressed that all along, he only saw shadows of people he could not understand.

Road to Recovery
Lwanga explains that it has not been easy to regain conscious and applauded doctors and al the medical personnel for working day and night to make sure he comes back to normal.

“I got paralyzed and my legs can’t support my body I have been put on physiotherapy walking on sticks and the wheel chair. I have also been advised to start swimming as one of the remedies that would restore my nerves and connect back with the brain,” he explains.

Lwanga can now afford to smile.
Lwanga can now afford to smile.

Lwanga is optimistic he will regain full fitness and begins returns to work soon.

“I am not used to staying in one place for a long time and I hope by the next week am discharged and I return home because I no longer feel that the general body pain.”

On the brutal former Old Kampala DPC, Lwanga explains that he expects the law to take its course on the errant police officer whom he says doesn’t fit to be in the police force.

Journalists Speak out
In interview with ChimpReports, Human Rights Network for Journalists’ National Coordinator Robert Ssempala explained that they are set to pursue a civil suit in the High court against Mwesigye.

“We are not contented with the police doctor report which says that Lwanga got no injuries after being clobbered and only indicates that he only got an emotional distress which is not right. We are going to file another suit in the High Court against Mwesigye and all the officers that aided him while battering the journalists on that day,” Ssempala noted.

While covering a procession by the youth under the National Association of the Unemployed who were on route to the office of the police Chief Gen.Kale Kayihura in a bid to inform him of their intended activities throughout the country, Mwesigye unleashed w terror on journalists and in the scuffle, Lwanga was badly beaten to near death while others nursed wounds.
By Aliker David Martin

My family has struggled with mental illness for more than 20 years. Mental illnesses have made my brothers lose friends, shop jobs and are less happy with their life because they are less productive.

As a family, we have experienced all forms of stigmatization related to mental illness. We have felt the biting expense of managing mental illness.

At times, mental illness has not only brought disunity in the family but also made us question our faiths. This meant visiting different churches to find answers to the burden of mental health.

Fortunately, as children of medical practitioners, our approach has been deepening our faith in God and the science of medicine.

Personally, I have lived in fear and anxiety of why not me and when will I be next? My fears have made me research extensively on mental health to create awareness within myself and how I can help others. This is how I got inspired to become a mental health activist.

So why do I testify today? The story of those struggling with mental health is the same and needs to be heard if we are to fight the stigma of mental illness.

Mental illness needs the same attention as Malaria and HIV/AIDS. This is why I want to share with you my story and how I got involved with the campaign: Rescuing Head boy Kideg. (Kidega)

I attended Bishop Angelo Negri Primary School with my good friend Robert Kidega. He was an exceptionally bright young man from a humble family background yet with exceptional leadership skills.

While he made it direct entry to St. Henry’s College Kitovu, I remained at Bishop Angelo Negri College. We only met again at Makerere University, as I pursued a Bachelors of Education and he was a student of Law in the year 2000.

Unfortunately, he dropped out of law school as a result of mental health and I completed my degree. We never heard from each other again.

In 2011, as a graduate student; I travelled to a village called Coo Pee (A place with no men) to carry out my masters research thesis on, “The Challenges of Mato Oput in the Justice system of modern day Uganda”.

I met a madman eating leftovers at a rubbish pit by the road side. He called me by my full names. He still knew I was a teacher. He looked extremely dirty and put out a terrible smell like one who had never showered in years.

Nobody gave him attention until we began discussing the old good days at our primary school. He still sounded intelligent though his communication got mixed up often. He asked for his friends and his teachers.

Kidega at Bitabika Hospital
Kidega at Bitabika Hospital

I was happy to know he was alive. I was sad to see the sorry state of life he lived in. It toned down on me, if I am at University of San Diego, USA pursuing a Master in Peace and Justice Studies; he could have been at Harvard Law School.

I promised myself, the only peace I can bring him is his productive health and the only justice he deserves is to get back his health. I wanted to grant him back his dignity. It’s a promise I took in silence, hoping one day with God’s grace; he could be like my brothers.

So what is Mental Health?

In my community, a mentally ill person is considered a walking dead person. Their purpose is as good as that of a dead person; just that they are alive.

They are not helpful and don’t understand. Ironically, it’s us who don’t understand mental health.

According to Dr. Okello of Gulu Hospital, mental health is how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.

In August 31st 2008, The New Vision reported that a survey conducted by a team of British and Ugandan psychiatrists established that the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in northern Uganda is higher than that ever recorded anywhere in the world.

Writter [M] and Samuel (Negri OB), meet Kidega during research
Writer [M] and Samuel (Negri OB), meet Kidega during research
According to a research paper that the team published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, out of over 1,200 adults in Gulu and Amuru districts who were assessed by the psychiatrists in 2006, more than half (54%) were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder

In another research done by psychiatrists Dr. James Okello, Dr. T.S Onen and Dr. S. Musisi from Gulu and Makerere Medical Schools and Butabika National Referral Hospital, respectively, among adolescents in Gulu, 71% of children suffered from psychiatric disorders.

How Are We Responding To The Challenge Of Mental Health?

A 2009 study done in Gulu by Segame Musisi of people living with mental illness revealed that 80% were seeking treatment from traditional healers, while 20% visited hospitals or clinics.

The Monitor in its edition of October, 23rd 2014 also reported that a 2014 research conducted by John Paul II Justice and Peace Centre in the Acholi and Lango Sub region reveals that most people in these regions believe that mental illness in this part of the country is as a result of witchcraft.

Different people are responding differently to mental health in northern Uganda. Many times, their approach is determined by their faiths and fears; families and funding and Friends and Facebook (Social media)

Faith & Fears

You can imagine what comes to mind of a person with little or no faith in God when confronted with severe mental illness. Are you surprised many have resorted to witchcraft? Mental illness affects everybody in the family in one way or another.

However, because we barely understand it; the fear of the unknown and the fear of being next will make every one try out what they believe in to find healing.

In our case, we confronted our fears of witchcraft through prayer meetings in public places. We held meetings to plan and organize ourselves and gain courage.

Our first action was to pay Kidega a sudden visit and send him clothes and shoes and eat a decent meal. But most important to give him company and let the family and community know we still care about this abandoned isolated mad man-Kidega.

In the review of this activity, we agreed to set committees and assign roles to begin a campaign to raise money to take Kidega for healing and rehabilitation. Many friends and well wishers volunteered and the campaign kicked off.

Family& Funding

The family is normally the first source of finances to support families with mental illness. But in Kidega’s family, they are extremely poor but concerned. So we set out to have family meetings with the family to re-unite them in the campaign against mental illness; bring them awareness of mental health from our experiences and to ask for permission for us to fundraise online among friends to help Kidega.

In response, they asked for prayers to be organized in the village before any treatment can be given to Kidega. They offered whatever material and human resource help was required for Kidega to be sent to Butabika Hospital.

Two family members accompanied I and Lakor to Butabika hospital where Kidega took five (5) months and regained his productive life and remained stable.

Friends & Facebook

Mental health should not be the sole responsibility of the family but the community. Friends are quite helpful especially when families get frustrated and tired of the burdens of mental illness.

Most of Kidega’s friends lived far away from his village. So we mobilized his friends using social media. We developed a mailing list; chat groups and a Facebook page to ask for support and updated friends on progress of his healing. Many people who didn’t know him joined the campaign and offered us encouraging words and sent financial support.

Kidega’s Return and Resettlement

In the last week of November, we received with joy a call from Butabika hospital. The doctors informed us that Kidega is stable and productive. He will be discharged from hospital to complete his dose from home. We had expected this campaign to take a year or two but it took us 5 months.

We were filled with joy and disbelieve. We held family meetings to prepare the family on how to manage Kidega on his return and to help them understand that Kidgea has not healed yet but is now stable and productive. His healing will be a process that the family needs to go through with him.

We also organized prayers for the village to witness this miracle. Muslims, Pentecostals and Catholics prayed together in joy, praising God for this miracle. In our view this prayers were to create awareness to the community that mental health is treatable and they don’t have to visit witch doctors.

Welcome Prayers: Kidega receives Holy Communion after returning from Butabika Hospital
Welcome Prayers: Kidega receives Holy Communion after returning from Butabika Hospital

We also wanted to prepare the community on how they should relate with Kidega and avoid stigmatizing him. We informed them on how they can be of help in the campaign to support the mentally ill.

During this prayer, Kidega’s elder brother who spoke on behalf of the family said, “I had considered my brother dead, today he is born again. He is like a new baby ready to start a new life”.

Like all new babies, they can’t fend for themselves. They need parents and guidance. Also Kidega requires this help. Now that he is productive, he needs a livelihood and medication.

Kindly consider offering anything that would help support the resettlement and healing process for Kidega Robert.

You can offer material support, a job; money or your friendship to enable him access his basic needs. Since he is also on medication and needs to feed well, his family is also too poor; we can receive food stuff on behalf of his family and medication.  Join the campaign to support families suffering with mental illness.

Conclusively, no one chooses to suffer from mental illness. Like my fears, you could be next or a family member. Let’s join the campaign to support families struggling with mental health through funding, awareness campaigns but most importantly restraining ourselves from stigmatizing people with mental illness.

The Author is a Mental Health Activist. He can be reached on 0785542998. Email:

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