FATE OF LIFE
Long ago there lived a boy called Tussime Fred a Munyankole from Western Uganda who lived in Kampala with his mother Mrs. Lynnet Byamukama and his father Mr. Byamukama John.
At that time, his father had the latest car and had a job that earned him at least 600,000 shillings monthly, so he was considered one of the richest men where they lived. Fred was their only child, and his parents loved him so much that they gave him everything he asked for.
At 9 years old, Fred was in lower primary section form three in St. Francis primary school around Kampala.
On a cloudy Thursday afternoon, uncle William met the head teacher and told her the bad news about Fred’s parents as he reported “They encountered a motor accident on their way back from their upcountry home for the weekend and unfortunately they were rushed to the hospital in an ambulance but didn’t survive the operation as they had lost a lot of blood.”
The head teacher being so grieved by the sad news, she called for Fred and authorized him to be taken back home with his uncle before the usual time. Fred was excited to leave school early that he did not care to ask about his special treatment (leaving school early) or why his uncle was the one who picked him up for the first time instead of his dad who did not even for a single day default or give an excuse. Like petals in the wind, none of these coincidences crossed his mind but he was innocently to leave school early.
As soon as he entered the car, Fred started to narrate all kinds of stories to his uncle about the gifts his parents bought him especially the new bicycle his dad bought on his 9th birthday and about many other gifts he promised him. And he added that my father always buys me a snack in the corner before going back home and his uncle quietly without hesitation drove straight ahead to the snack corner and bought him his favourite Gorilo snack and strawberry ice-cream.
On reaching home to Fred’s surprise the gate was wide open with turns people inside seated all over the place mourning and others were up and down on calls among other things while the bonfire was lit in the middle of the compound. His uncle held him by the hand as they walked through the compound. Fred spontaneously questioned uncle William, what was going on around his home? His uncle dodged to answer the question and pretended not to have heard but Fred said to his uncle “if you won’t tell me I will ask my parents when they get home” in that instant uncle William could not hold his grieve and pity for his nephew but simply busted into silent tears and called Grace, the maid, to take Fred to the kitchen and prepare him some food. Grace reached out to the fridge got a variety of tropical fruit blended them into juice and made a Spanish omelette for his lunch.
As he was getting done with his lunch, one of their distant uncle, Simon, who was known of not getting along with Fred’s parents, arrived held him by his right hand lifted him up and carried him up to the sitting room, switched on the television, put him on the chair and told him, “sit there and watch, let me not see you out of this house till evening”. Fred sat in the chair anxiously waiting for his parents to return in order to report Uncle Simon to them.
Evening reached the time his dad usually returned home daily, and he was nowhere to be found. Grace gave him dinner which after he decided to go to bed, as he was in bed he was unable to sleep without his mom telling him a good night story he laid restlessly facing the ceiling wondering what was going on in his home and all these sudden changes, that’s when he overheard Grace talking on the home telephone in the bed room corridor and telling them about his parents death.
On hearing this message he fainted and lay unconscious in his room, in that moment Mr Mugisha Hillary, his father’s best friend, arrived with the intention of giving him the bad new but to his shock he found Fred lying on the floor. He was rushed to hospital in Mugisha’s car and was admitted for a week. Mugisha stayed by his side the whole time till he gained consciousness but unfortunately he was not able to attend his parents burial.
Two days after the burial, the family head called for a special meeting of close relatives and friends to discuss the will and the custody of the orphan as well as the legacy that was left behind. While in the meeting they discovered that Fred’s late parents did not leave a will and they decided to consider blood relations to take care of Fred and his parent’s wealth because Fred was young and he had no say in all that was decided. The vote was in for Simon Mucunguzi an uncle from Kigezi who immediately transferred his family to stay with him in Kampala, in his new acquired luxurious home and wealth.
Once Fred was discharged from the hospital, he was taken back home and to his surprise his uncle Simon and his whole family were living in his home as well. Simon explained to Fred how the family seconded him to take care of his brother’s only child and property hence the decision of moving to Kampala. He promised to take good care of Fred and all his needs but this didn’t last as Fred did not seat his promotional exams to primary four due to his uncle’s failure to pay the school dues as well as the constant mistreatment and negativity of his uncle’s family inclusive of his very own uncle Simon worsened his emotional and physical stability to cope.
One of Fred’s friend Hamid from the neighbourhood told his parent’s of Fred’s condition and they felt so bad, sent a message to Mr. Mugisha Hillary to check on Fred’s welfare since the picture did not seem right. Once Hillary arrived at his late friend’s place, Fred was very excited to see him as he was the only sun missing in all the cold days he was going through in his new adopted family, he narrated the mistreatment and his drop out from school at such a low level. Hillary was very pitiful of the whole situation and thought in real time the best thing was to take Fred back with him without a confrontation from Simon thus he lied to uncle Simon that he wanted to take Fred to see his parent’s graves and he was granted permission to do so and they left in two days.
When the two promised days elapsed Hillary called Simon to inform him that after staying with Fred for a short while, he felt very indebted to his late best friend and wanted to support Fred in his education journey and seek his permission to do so. Simon did not oppose the proposal as he just continued with his life without a second thought about the young boy.
In Kigezi Fred started living a simple happy life as Mugisha provided for his needs and school dues until he finished primary level (P.7) however during his vacation Hillary lost his job. His farm income was so constrained to support the whole family and at the same time pay for Fred’s high school level education thus he stayed home and helped on the farm.
Mr. Mulungi Chris, one of Hillary’s friend, visited from Kampala during the Easter Holiday. As they were having their conversation Hillary introduced Fred and asked Chris to help find a better life for him in Kampala. Chris offered Fred a job at his home as a house helper as he seemed to be hardworking and would be a great help to his family. Fred left Kigezi in much pain especially about Hillary’s condition and leaving behind a family that loved him so, as well as the fear of meeting his uncle Simon whom had abandoned him years ago.
On 13th April 2003, Fred begun to stay at Chris’s home and was treated as his own son but never allowed him to move out the gate. After about one month of staying indoors, Chris decided to go with him to one of the big supermarket in the busy streets of Kampala. While there, Chris drew his attention to the shopping list and the items on as Fred followed behind him. There was a fountain in the bakery section and a restaurant where shoppers had a fast meal, Fred was amazed and startled to see flipping water with small coloured fish and young kids enjoying candy bars. He reflected on the times his parents used to do all these for him. For a second he lost contact with Chris and he started to wonder off looking for him but all in vain as he found himself outside on unknown streets. Scared and confused he asked the people around him the directions to Chris’s home but they looked at him as being slain as he didn’t know the name of the place or the street where he was living and they were of little help to his cause.
Mr Muringi Chris looked for Fred and didn’t find him so he decided to return home as he was passing a shop were Fred was standing, Fred notice he was the one, tried to shout and call but he wouldn’t hear because he had closed the car windows and there was much noise . At that moment, Fred first thought he was fated to suffer for the rest of his life. On the other side; Chris sent a message to Hillary in Kigezi about the unfortunate wonder off of Fred in the busy streets of Kampala but promised to do everything he can to find him. Mugisha received the message and became worried about what he would tell Simon if he asked for Fred but fortunately Simon never at any one time asked.
Fred stayed in the streets for three days without any food or water, on the third day at around midday, a woman dressed smartly in a purple office dress passed near him and dropped a 50,000 shillings note. He debated in his heart whether to give back the money but his mind was reminding him of all sorts of things he can use the note for, so by the time he decided to chase the lady and give back the money it was a bit late as she had walked a few meters away and he had to just run if he wanted to catch up.
After running for about 200 meters, patting and exhorted he reached out with a loud voice as the woman was about to enter her home gate “Excuse me madam” he said, I have picked your money when you dropped it on the street as you walked pass me so, I wanted to give it back to you, here it is mum. Thankful and humbled by want he did, she visited him inside her home and offered food as she listened to his story of becoming a street child. Fred narrated for her the story and at the end Esther found out Fred’s late father was her OB in high school and felt very bad about the boy and decided to pay for him fees as a mother, so he stayed with Nakakande Esther a window of two children.
In Fred’s second week of staying with Esther, he was told he was joining school in the next two weeks and he was very grateful. When he joined school it was 5 weeks to the end of the term but he worked hard and topped his class. Nakakande was so happy and motivated to pay his school dues from F-1 to F-6 of secondary high school where he had 9 points in 8 in UCE exams as well as 20 points in UACE. He won a government scholarship as a law student for five years at Makerere university, graduated at 25yrs of Age, and retained as a government prosecutor.
One day, Fred visited Hillary’s family in the which he had left years ago and found Hillary in bad health condition as he had contracted diabetes which was not attended to due to low income and the whole was subjected to absolute poverty. Fred, first transferred Mugisha from the village to one of the best hospitals in Kampala were he got undivided medical attention for a full month and later discharged. Fred accommodated him in his home and was so grateful for all that he had done especially turning up into a responsible person just like his father.
On the lee ward side of life, Uncle Simon was in hot soup after defaulting to pay back a bank loan and the bank had seized all his property, when he learned of Fred’s financial status he quickly went to his plea and begged for his forgiveness, and in his loving heart Fred was able to leave the past behind and forgave his uncles’ mistakes. However, he was late to redeem the property thus he built him a little house on the farm land in their village where he shifted with his family.
Cover article image: painting by Giacomo Cuttone