When marriage becomes a prison, the shooting begins

Thursday May 30 2019


So the hapless Ugandans who want to escape their marital jails have taken to killing their poor spouses. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG 

By The EastAfrican

Until Ugandans stop letting society determine whom they live with for them, many women and men will continue suffering silently in prisons called marriage. Coupling is very easy but uncoupling is almost impossible in our conservative society.

As we speak now, a young ex-MP is rotting away in prison where he was sent after killing his young wife.

Their marriage got rocky almost as soon as they tied the knot. He could not opt out because of society’s expectations of a newlywed couple. So he put his gun in her mouth and blew her young brains out of her skull.

He was convicted and losing all appeals, blamed both President Museveni and his permanent opponent Dr Kizza Besigye for his predicament – a clearly disoriented mind.

Before him, Kampala was rocked by a high profile case of a neurosurgeon being charged with the brutal murder of his lawyer wife.

During the trial, it emerged that their marriage had been on the rocks for years, with the surgeon saying he had done everything to save it including taking her on a luxury cruise around the world.

He was acquitted by a judge who said he was releasing him because of prosecution’s incompetence, but with serious doubts remaining in his mind. The surgeon became a bitter Museveni opponent.

A couple of years ago, a young woman barely out of her mid-thirties was convicted of murdering her wealthy husband, the father of her two children, by driving her car over him when he went to open the gate for her as she returned from a late night out. It transpired their marriage had died years earlier and was just a prison each was trying to escape.

This high-profile case was followed by the artistic slaying of a wealthy Kampala businessman who was knocked dead by a speeding car during his morning jog on the affluent hill of Muyenga, where much of Kampala’s old money resides.

The widow and her sister were charged with the murder. The widow was acquitted but her sister was convicted.

All these cases come to mind because, for a month now, Kampala’s most discussed person is not President Museveni, Bobi Wine nor Kizza Besigye, but a certain pastor whose name sounds like that island we keep fighting for with Kenya.

Like the Migingo affair, which we are stuck with because of some long-dead British cartographer’s careless mistake, Pastor Bugingo’s marriage of three decades has become a pain in his groin as he struggles to divorce and wed a Pretty Youth Thing that recently stole his heart, while his all-motherly wife is being overwhelmed by public sympathy, as she insists on forgiving her husband for whatever has gone wrong.

Some argue that divorce in traditional society was not necessary because a man could find an additional wife if he found his wife wanting, while society provided for punitive measures against a woman who messed up, without chasing her away.

But then came Christianity, which demonised polygamy while compelling people to stick together until death did them part.

So the hapless Ugandans who want to escape their marital jails have taken to killing their poor spouses. And imagine it is only the high-profile ones who get reported. How many hundreds of Ugandans who are being slain every year would have survived if their killers had been allowed to separate with ease?

Joachim Buwembo is a retired journalist and a consultant based in Kampala. E-mail: buwembo@gmail.com