They’re just children

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When her maid mistreated her 22 months old baby back in 2014, every kind of journalist, humanitarian activist and other concerned men and women flocked her home and camped there to milk a story from her. Everyone wanted to be the first one to have the story from the horse’s mouth because that is what defines news in the media. He who has it first is the man to beat.  People were calling her left, right and centre, many with new numbers of people she didn’t know.

One day in 2014 Angella came back home to stare at a horrifying scene in one of the camera recordings in the house. It was not a normal recording because before she was her child being beaten, kicked and stepped on by her maid.

Many of you might have forgotten about her, but as you can recall, the video from Museveni’s land went viral on social media and soon everyone was talking about it. But how many ever followed up with what happened to Arnella after the incident?

Meeting Angella Mbabazi a few days ago was a miracle! It was on a normal day, a month ago, while in class when she introduced herself and talked about her cause, and why she chose to be that; A child rights, protection, and safety advocate. And that’s when she talked about the horrific incident that happened to her daughter in November 2014. Many could not believe her but I knew right there was my person of interest. While many journalists focus on hacking new stories and trying to hone their nose for new stories, I am that rugged-ass journalist who does follow-ups on stories others cracked. And here was one.

In-case you’ve forgotten the incident just click on this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bmwvb6LAPk

Our interview is rescheduled a number of times due to a number of reasons, and when we finally have the chance, it is the second last day of our training in the YALI Regional Leadership Centre in K.U. We find a room and there is a lot of silence hugging the room, which makes it perfect for the interview. I turn on my recorder on this old Samsung Galaxy SII plus.

Angella comes from the land of Matooke Republic in Uganda. She has been married for around 8 years now and has two kids aged 5 and 6. If you met her in the streets of Nairobi on a normal day, you wouldn’t know that she has kids because she looks quite young and has the right meat in the right places, unlike many mothers.

First of all, I want to delve into the issue of Arnella as I never had the opportunity to get the whole story but she quickly notes that she wants to talk about what she’s doing now.  This is because this story brings a gush of ugly memories that she would rather not want to have at the moment. I promise not to ask much about her, but of course, this is a lie because that is where the story was. The interview would have been plain minus Arnella.

Arnella is 5 now.  After the incident, Arnella was so traumatized and didn’t want any new people around her. She would cling to her mother, father or brother for safety and comfort. She would wake up at night and cry. The kind of crying that scares someone. The kind of cry that babies voice when they dream of dreary experiences.  A cry that didn’t stop for three years, with most nights Arnella waking up with a shrilling cry. I ask her if it has stopped now to which she says it has significantly reduced. She does cry even now.

Does she have memories of what happened to her? I ask.

Not at all. But one thing is obvious, she fears strangers and people at large, and she is very cautious with whom she interacts with. She responds. Something that, to me, shows that that thing still haunts her even if she never remembers it.

I ask her if she thinks that the incidence might affect Arnella in her future life. She thinks it won’t though I disagree internally with her statement because clearly from her first response on how Arnella behaves towards people shows the effects already.

It was a tough time in her life. One she could not have managed to come out of without her husband who supported her all through. During that period when the story was hot, she would turn off the radio,  TV and any other channel that would make her remember the incident. Every media house was at it, and she wanted to forget it.

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Her husband attended court hearings when the maid was arraigned in court, he appeared at interviews and literary did all he had to do. While doing all these, he told Angella to stay at home, which was a big relief, while he handled business for both of them. As Angella says, he was her cornerstone at that time. Him and prayers. By the way, she is very prayerful. And she prayed for all these to go away.

One of the miracles that happened during the incident is that Arnella was not hurt physically. Even the doctors who attended to her and had watched the clip were very surprised that she didn’t have any broken limb or bone. This miracle was a big relief for both Angella and her husband. Their child had not sustained any physical injuries. It made her days a little easier.

I ask her how the clip ended on the internet and she tells me that the two had a long debate on whether they should release it or hold onto it. After weighing the options, they opted to share it with some family and friends only. Their hope was that maybe those who watched it would start being careful with those they leave their children with. It was a tough decision but somehow it bore fruit. It reached many people and many parents perhaps thought in that line- that they should start being careful with the people they leave their kids with.

Angella has always been a protective mother. Something she says is a mother’s thing. This is how she suggested they put up the CCTV camera in their home. Although she was a full time stay home mom, there were these few times she would not be around, and with time, she got a job and started working.

As always people talked, some blaming her and her husband for not being good parents. Others blamed the maid. The world had so many theories and she heard them all, at least some of them. Somehow she knew most of them were wrong because they didn’t know what happened.

How did the incident change you? Did it make you a better mother?

Well, it changed me, positively of course. I didn’t know I could handle that much. I couldn’t say that it has made me a better mother because I have always been one. I could say it has made me a more protective mother, not only to my children but to all the other children as well. Children should be everybody’s responsibility, she says.

After the incident in late 2014, she would be on call from The Uganda Human Rights Centre to talk about humanitarian issues. This center focused on general human rights, but Angella’s focus and passion were on children. That is when she decided to come up with an NGO that focuses on children rights, protection, and advocacy; THE ARNELLA MIRACLE FOUNDATION.

Life has moved on. She is more aware of children’s needs and rights. With her organization, they go to schools and organize talks- especially on better parenting skills, organize educative sessions for teachers, children and child care takers to raise awareness of child abuse and it’s repercussions among other projects and activities to eradicate child abuse in society.

 

Any final words perhaps?

Let us take care of children and be their voice because they do not have a voice. Try to look out for their protection and safety. They are innocent and faultless. They’re just children!

 

Regards, Mzangila

Yogaman.

 

Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?

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About Mzangila

Mentor, media consultant, photographer, editor, poet, writer, and counselor.

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[…] ALSO Read: Story of the 22-months-old who was physically abused by a maid in 2014. How is baby Arnella doing 3… […]