The young nine months old, scampers on the mother like all its life depends on her, it doesn’t want to go even when the mother beckons it to join the siblings in play. Its skin seems to betray the innocence that so evidently sparkles from its eyes. All is not well, the bugs of the night seem to feast on this little thing every other night. It now has a rash all over its body but because of maama, all seems to be well in its world. As you curse the dry season, the thought of the rainy season leaves 40-year-old, Florence Mbekeka, a resident of Namusere quite scared. The three bedroom mud and wattle house seems like an open roof letting in water unhampered every time it rains. But there is something more, even before the rains start, chances are that they will be thrown out from the place they have since called home. They are just squatters, living off someone’s land that is now under contention. To make her worries even more profound, the man that she has known as her best friend and confidant had his last breath on 27th January this year, leaving her alone in this dire state. Mbekeka’s journey of unending trials Born a normal child in Buikwe district, Mbekeka was disabled at the age of nine. The left leg got paralysed and she solely depended on one for support, a fact that she had come to terms with. Her childhood was one full of stigma from her own father, he never saw anything good out of her and everyday he reminded her of her disability. “He always told me disabled children don’t go to school. My role was to cook and till the land as my other siblings went to school,” she narrates. Mbekeka would spend hours in the father’s coffee plantation
picking the beans or doing housework. She had no one to her side, her mother had since left the home. To add more pain to her already tormented life, a witchdoctor that had been brought to apparently treat one of the children at home ended up raping her. With a voice full of pain she narrates the gruesome ordeal that not only forcefully took away her virginity but left her pregnant. Her father could never accept that his friend, the witchdoctor could ever do such a thing. Because when she finally opened up due to the pregnancy, he just threatened to kill her for blackmailing his friend. “How can such a respectable man rape a useless girl like you who just craws on the ground,” the words of her father still echo in her mind. At exactly 14and a half years, Mbekeka gave birth to her first daughter with the help of a traditional birth attendant. No one was willing to take her to the nearby health facility. The baby just made the conditions much harder, she had work harder so as to be able to support her child. “After working on my father’s farm, I would go out to village to do odd jobs for money to buy basics for the baby. My father would never give me anything,” Finding love One day as she went on with her work in someone’s homestead, her now deceased husband, John Musoke, a fisherman at the time, found her quite irresistible. To her, this was love at first sight and when he proposed, she couldn’t hesitate to say yes. He officially introduced himself to her father and off they went, to start life together and at the time, she was barely 17years. Regardless of the challenges, she speaks of her marriage life as a fulfilling one. They supported each other and shared every joys and pains together. “We never fought in our marriage; we both had each other to rely on. His family had equally deserted him,” she says. But she has since regretted having trusted him so much to never question his decisions. In 2004, he told her of how he had sold off hpw the land in Buikwe and bought land complete with a house in Wakiso. So, they had to move and at the time, they already had five children. She got the shock of her life when they reached Namusera and it was a one roomed house and not their own but rented. When she tried to ask him what had happened, he just ignored her and she was left with no choice but to accept their new life. Musoke had turned to fetching water in the village. She just could not sit back and wait for the little money from the water to support the home especially as the family continued to grow bigger with a baby every other year. Mbekeka started doing petty trade. The husband would go out to do the shopping especially foodstuffs on market days and would bring for her. They were also lucky to get a landlord who wanted someone to keep his land and this is where they have lived for several years until her husband breathed his last. She also started brick laying but this has since become quite challenging for her. She has never regained her full stability ever since she gave birth to her last baby something she blames on the nurse who attended to her. “I told the young nurse not to inject me on the buttocks because I always had them through the hand. She insisted and since then my active leg has also become paralysed,” she notes. Of all her eight children, this was the first one to be born in hospital and she has come to regret the choice. “Disability had never been a problem to me, I always did my chores very well with that one leg but now it’s also gone,” However, she has also had two miscarriages and three other children died of natural causes. Trouble sets in A few years ago, wrangles erupted between the landlord and one of his siblings over the land. Apparently, when she was selling off her piece of land, she also included the plot where Mbekeka and her family live since it’s just next. The case is currently in court but they are always on tension wondering what the next day has in store for them. And with the increasing developments in the area, her fears keep growing by the day. At 17 years, one of the boys, Wasswa, seems to worry more and more about his mother. He just doesn’t seem to understand why their relatives don’t like them and would rather watch them suffer. “After dad’s burial, we begged to have at least a small piece of land on the over 10accres our grandfather left behind but no one seemed to care,” he says. He speaks of her mother as a very strong woman who even when their father was still alive, she basically provided more for them. “My mum is disabled but she can do almost every thing, am only worried that if they tell us to go away from here, we have no where to go. She used up all her capital to cover the burial expenses,” says the teenager. Wasswa dropped out of school while in primary six because the mother could not afford the scholastic materials. He now does odd jobs in the village to help support the family. What neighbours say about Mbekeka Justine Kaaye
I have seen this family for years and all this time they just struggle through life. It is very unfortunate that the husband passed on because at least they had each other to count on.
The husband would try as much as possible but he could provide just as much and actually there was a time they had failed to pay rent of just sh10, 000 a month before they got the current house.
She is very hardworking but conditions have just not been favorable for her. Even when the husband was around, she would find means of supplementing the little money he was earning.
What I know is that they are much stranded and I keep wondering what next for them because the owner of the land will soon claim it.