The Bwaise area in northern Kampala is known more for its floods by those that live elsewhere, than anything else. When it rains, it is close to impossible to leave or access the area. Many of the people who live there try hard to make enough money so they can escape to drier land.
There are those that stay, though. The hard laborers who trek to work in the factories in Kawempe or Wandegeya and who do not have any other choice. These have, in true human fashion, found ways to adapt. They ride the jokes easy when they are asked about their boats back home.
Bwaise is also a haven for wrong characters. It is easier for crooks to hide out in the ‘swamps’ since the law enforcers seem to think no sensible person would want to live in such a hole. So when the crimes of the desperate inhabitants of the area go down, no one really hears the cries of the victims.
Safina was used to this track. She could walk it with her eyes closed. Every morning at five o’clock, before the madness came out and messed up her mood, she beat her way through the path that led to her kiosk. It was way shorter and cheaper. She didn’t have to take the taxi. She had to walk to Wandegeya from Bwaise but it was okay since it was not hot and there were not people on the road. She liked to be with her thoughts.
It was very expensive to travel by taxi. In the morning, the goons that operated the transport doubled, nay tripled the charge. Safina could not afford to pay Shs500 to travel from Bwaise to Wandegeya. That was three meals for her and Baby Shafira, who stayed home with the little girl Safina had brought from Bulemezi to help her while she went to work.
Safina sold knick-knacks in the market at Wandegeya in a stall she shared with a benevolent mukiga woman who did not really need the space. Safina used to be her house help in the past but when she had gotten pregnant, the boss had told her to find her own place.
The mukiga woman had a big stall in the market but she also had a bar in the same area. Safina asked to sell her things in the stall and the answer was yes In fact, it was too good to be true because Safina did not have to pay the rent. Her former boss pledged to pay.
There was some illumination from the balokole church on the way and there were security lights on the houses of some of the well-to do residents. The path ran through a residential area which gave Safina some sort of courage.
And she only thought of her safety on the rarest occasions.
So she was not thinking of her safety when the two shadows materialised just after the lights of the balokole church. One of them grabbed for the basket on Safina’s head and the first thing that went through her mind was her baby, Shafira and the second was “scream!”
But it soon became apparent that this was not a robbery when in the dim glow of the now distant security light behind her, she saw what could only be a blade.
Then she screamed.
Her attackers laughed. Too easily, as though they had all the time in the world. They were not afraid that they would be found by someone using this route. Safina felt like the trapped animal she was.
The blow was more startling than painful. Even with the grim realisation that she had been stabbed, she was thinking of getting out of the valley as soon as she could.
She felt the warm flow of her blood through her clothes, running from somewhere in her midsection. She stumbled in the shallow stream that on other days would have been a no-go area because of her fear for crawling things.
Safina’s attackers saw all this but they did not do anything else. They stood watching her attempts to hold steady on the long grass and then, like they were bored, walked away.
Out of breath and quickly losing strength, she struggled to reach the house she was seeing just ahead of her. She got a surge of strength, perhaps because hope flared up again, when she got to the gate. She banged with all her might. Frantically, with her newfound strength, she called out for someone, anyone to come to her aid.
Maybe, she shouldn’t have been so frantic. Maybe she shouldn’t have shouted out that she had been stabbed. Because when she did, a deathly silence befell the house. Not a sound was heard.
This was 5.30am. There are many who wake up about this time to pray, to warm the water and to feed the baby. About this time, the shamba boy is up to check on the chickens and the housemaid, in hopes that the shamba boy might see her in her slip, is out preparing breakfast for Boss.
No one came to Safina’s rescue.
At 6.00am, after fighting the pain and the regret that she was leaving baby Shafira with no one, after most of her blood had flowed out and she had lost the interest to hold in the intestines that had pushed out of the widening wound in her stomach and dress, Safina breathed her last. It was simple, just the way she had lived her life. With no incident. She was just tired of fighting.
When the shamba boy shamefacedly opened the gate so his boss could drive out to go build the nation, there she was, in her glory. The ants on her face and in her mouth were having a feast so early in the morning.