It was 9:00 am, May 28, 2019. That morning, 16-year-old Sonia* was alone at home. She had just finished taking a bath when her grandfather, Allen*, walked into the living room, which was separated by a curtain from her bedroom. She could see through the curtain who had walked into the living room. It would be an ordinary visit, or so she thought. After all, he was a family member. Unknown to her, her grandfather was up to no good. He stormed into her bedroom where Sonia was dressing, violently threw her on the bed and sexually assaulted her.
“If you tell anyone, I will kill you!” her grandfather, 68, sternly warned her.
She was bruised and in pain. Yet, scared for her life, she decided to keep quiet and went to school for a new academic term. It was difficult to concentrate. She was withdrawn and constantly crying. The pain in her lower abdomen was getting unbearable by the day, and before long, she had a pus discharge.
That is when she got the courage to speak to the school matron, who eventually got in touch with her father. They reported to the nearby police station so that they could conduct immediate investigations. The case was then referred to the district where the abuse occurred. In that district, however, the case was mishandled. It was an ugly story of the powerful against the powerless.
The victim’s father, however, was a relentless advocate on behalf of his daughter. He found his way to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters in Kampala. CID took over investigations of the case and thereafter sought IJM’s support for the evacuation of the victim’s family and the arrest of the perpetrator in a district almost 500 km from Kampala. IJM coordinated with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), Witness Protection Department and the police to conduct a dual operation of the evacuation of the victim’s family; and arrest and indictment of the perpetrator in a district High Court.
On Monday, August 8, 2022, nearly 3 years after the assault took place, the High Court found the perpetrator guilty of sexually assaulting his granddaughter. On Monday, August 15, 2022, the perpetrator was sentenced to 20 years in jail.
In his verdict, Justice Moses Kawumi Kazibwe said, “At 16, the victim was old enough to explain what she went through. The fear to tell her mother and father is evidence that she feared that her grandfather would kill her.”
He observed that the survivor was consistent in her narrations even during tense cross-examination, adding that there was no need for corroboration for such a grave offence. He found the accused guilty of raping his granddaughter.
The father of the survivor sighed with relief upon hearing the verdict. “I am like a woman who has given birth without being pregnant! IJM is my family.”
Commenting on the judgement, IJM Senior Human Rights Lawyer Byron Mwanje stated, “In cases like these where a grandfather, a close family member takes advantage of his own granddaughter whom he is supposed to protect, the hand of the law needs to come in to restrain the offender and stop this kind of impunity. This judgement is very welcome.”
*Stock image and pseudonyms used for the protection of the survivor