Mwigulu Matonange (10), a Standard I pupil at Msia Primary School in Sumbawanga District, nurses wounds at Mtowisa Health Centre after an attack on February 15 in which his left arm was chopped off. (Photo: Correspondent Emmanuel Kwitema, UTSS Sumbawanga)
Mwigulu Gimbishi Matonange (10) a standard One pupil with albinism at Msia Primary School in Sumbawanga Rural District, 117 kilometres from the town, is now admitted at Mtowisa Health Centre nursing wounds after criminals cut off his left arm.
Narrating the ordeal in his native language of Sukuma, which was then translated into Swahili by his father, Gimbishi Lugwisha Magesse Matonange; the humble, but courageous boy said on February 15, he was literally kidnapped by two strangers who took him to a hill and hacked off his arm.
“I was held down like a goat about to be slaughtered. One of them covered my eyes with his hat apparently to stop me from watching what they were about to embark on. I then felt a sharp pain in my arm as a machete cut through the flesh and bone. They dismembered my left arm from the rest of my body,” Mwigulu tells a team of Under The Same Sun (UTSS) who visited him at the hospital in Rukwa last Sunday.
The team was also visiting a woman with albinism, Maria Chambanenge (39) of Mkowe village in Miangalua who is admitted at the Regional Hospital after unknown criminals invaded her house while she was asleep and chopped off her left arm on February 11, this year.
Rukwa Regional Crimes Officer (RCO), Peter Ngussa told UTSS in his office that his force has arrested five people in connection with the incident and that Maria’s arm was recovered where the goons had left it, somewhere in a bush between Miangalua and Mkowe.
It was at this time that young Mwigulu suffered the horrible experience.
Mwigulu told the UTSS team that after cutting off his arm, the two men disappeared into the thick forest with his arm wrapped in the dirty clothes they had, leaving him helpless and bleeding profusely. “I did not lose hope,” said Mwigulu, adding that he struggled to move from where he was left and started to climb down the hill hoping to reach home, but he was bleeding profusely and losing strength.
“I felt weak and decided to rest a little,” he said. While he was still figuring out how he could reach home alive, he heard some people calling out his name. “They were calling my name.” He used his remaining strength to respond, shouting: “I am here! I am here! Come and help me! They have cut off my arm.”
His elder cousin, Mwigulu Chilomwa was the one who reached him first. They covered the wound with clothes to stop the bleeding before taking him home and later to a nearby dispensary at Msia village where the nurses disinfected the wound and dressed it. He was later taken on a motorcycle to Mtowisa Health Centre, 32 kilometres from their home village, where he is currently admitted for treatment. According to the Centre’s doctor Frednand Yunga, Mwigulu’s condition is improving.
When asked what should be done to the criminals if they are caught, the confident Mwigulu did not hesitate to state clearly: “They should be beheaded because they had planned to kill me.”
His father Matonange says he becomes confused when his son Mwigulu M reminds him that he would like to go back to school as soon as he is discharged and the money donated by the Good Samaritans for his treatment should be used to buy him a pair of socks as part of school uniform. Matonange says however that his boy does not want to go back home and to the same school in Msia because he is afraid the same men would come back to hack off his remaining arm.
Recounting what had happened before the thugs captured him on the fateful day, Mwigulu says he remembers to have left the school a bit earlier because his neighbour 17-year old Mwigulu (Standard VI) was not feeling well. Normally his brother Didi would escort him to and from the school. But he had not finished his assignment in school. So when neighbour Mwigulu offered to go home with Mwigulu, Didi allowed him to. Their home is in an isolated area near a forest, three kilometers from the Msia centre.
On their way home, Mwigulu says they saw two unidentified men who were walking fast trying to catch up with them. As they approached home just near a bridge they saw them “closely watching where we were heading,” narrates Mwigulu.
He said as soon as they reached home, they had their lunch before he and his younger cousin Luwilimila Mashala (12), a standard II pupil of the same school left for a nearby seasonal stream, a kilometre away from their home to bathe. As they approached the tributary they saw a herd of cattle grazing near their farms.
They decided to move the cows far away towards a nearby forest to prevent them from destroying their crops. They saw the two strangers they had earlier seen by the roadside. The two unidentified men asked them if they happened to have seen their red cow. They boys told them that they had not come across the cow in question.
Mwigulu said that one of the two assailants snatched his hand, while the other was chasing his cousin with an intention of abducting him as well. Luwilimila was helpless as he witnessed his cousin Mwigulu being dragged up the hill into the forest. It was then that he decided to run as fast as he could to the village to seek help.
He met his brother Mwigulu Chilomwa weeding his farm and he broke news that strangers had abducted Mwingulu and that they were heading towards the top of a nearby hill. Mwigulu Chilomwa and a group of villagers managed to find him lying down in the bush, very tired and still bleeding.
Speaking to UTSS on the two events Rukwa Regional Commissioner, Engineer Stella Manyanya said the regional administration was taking the incidents very seriously and that police have confirmed that they have made arrests in connection with Maria’s and Mwigulu’s attackers. “Let us give them time to finish the investigations so that the criminals would be brought to the court of law for justice to take its course,” she told UTSS team.
However, Manyanya said she that does not expect the office of government attorneys in the region to dilly- dally in bringing the case to court when they have all the necessary evidence.
She said, “It is true there are legal and human rights implications in these cases. But what human rights issues are there to be discussed when one person cuts another’s hand with a machete without mercy and the evidence is right there?”