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Ingrid Turinawe explains how regime frustrated her businesses

by James Ateenyi

The untold tale of facing a dictator!

To the unsuspecting public some incidents remain unknown to them , the former US secretary to defense Donald Rumsfeld famously phrased it as “ the unknown known’s” likewise the unknown known in my journey is , despite the brutal treatments I have been subjected to for fighting the dictator , I have opted to continue my journey.

The story, I am about to narrate is personal and for that reason I opted to keep silent about it for a while but since I have built enough patience to withhold my tears. Because I know my tormentors will use it to their advantage to further dehumanize. The main purpose of their acts is to cause me pain and anguish. Their joy is to see me miserable and crying. However, I have resisted their assaults by using my best weapon “my killer smile “to deny them joy which they seek from my tears.

During walk to work, I survived death several times ,until one day I decided to reluctantly let go of my well thriving business The junta was responsible for frustrating the operation of my business , I tried to resist their plots but it reached to the point that I either choose my life or the business . I used to own a health club along Mawanda road called” Da Palace”. It housed different departments i.e. Steam bath, Sauna, massage section, Gym and restaurant.

Alongside this thriving business, I was very active in organizing walk to work activities which made me a target to the state and therefore become a frequent visitor to prisons and courts. As I was engaged in walk to work activities, there were a series of unexplained well coordinated “robbers” invading my business place more or less on a weekly basis. I could not easily attribute it to politics; I thought they were the usual thieves. I continued to cover my loses, as I moved on with my street work. I concealed my business troubles as if nothing was happening.

I was not physically attending to the daily management of the business; I had employed different managers at different sections. I would briefly be there to eat, meet friends, and check books of accounts and go.

The first signal came!
At a very short notice, the invisible hands of the state went into full action, my business premises Land Lord abruptly changed terms of rent payment. I was to suddenly start paying in US Dollars. As if that was not enough, rent was hiked from 1.7 million UGX to $1000 dollars per month.

Even though this would have been the best time for me to take the hardest decision of closing my business, I loved and needed to work. I thought all will be well. I sat with my managers; we agreed to struggle with the new terms simply because our business had acquired stable customers who would be inconvenienced in case we shifted in search for cheaper premises. We agreed we would still make some profits.

During the same period, my other land Lord for my residence also increased rent. I suspected she was already tired of me and feeling insecure with me because of police surveillance plus the heavy deployments around her house which was also my home. My house was adjacent to hers (read two in one), so police used to surround us together.

On this, I was very quick to take a decision of parting with my rented residence to occupy my own house which was still under construction and referred to as a ‘site’.

Without giving it a second thought, I called a truck and packed all my belongings, moved to Gayaza II Canaan estate. I occupied a ‘site’ which did not qualify to be called a house but it had walls, doors and roof. I told myself, this is my house, it’s my home, I will not be asked to pay exorbitant rent or little rentals on it.

It was a new estate that basically had demarcated plots with a few contractors working on a few sites within the estate. My own site but now home was surrounded by bushes and tall grass that grew in my neighbors’ undeveloped plots.

My decision to occupy the ‘site’ was a shock to many friends, and family. I was discouraged but I stood my ground as I knew nobody would understand the exact determination I had. I would continue building the same site starting with bedrooms until it became a home.

The Uganda Police steadily followed me to the ‘site’; they took permanent positions in the bushes which became their permanent beds. It is in this house/site that I have fought the biggest battles with police up to today.

On 9th May 2011, it was a day I needed to pay two months’ rent for my business premises. I woke up to a normal bright morning, I spent most of the morning hours in my office coordinating with other leaders and preparing some activism documents.

At around 3pm, I went to Stanbic bank at Cham towers to withdraw some money. After withdrawing, I proceeded to the Forex bureau, changed it into enough dollars that I needed to pay rent as I kept some shillings which I needed for myself and for the health club and restaurant shopping as per the requisition the manager had submitted. I then went to my landlord’s lawyer’s office, with an intention of paying him $2000 to clear two months of rent. Unfortunately, I went without appointment, I found his doors closed, I tried to call but all phones were off. So I decided to come back the next day, but little did I know there would be no next day.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine Miss Aryatuha Juliet was on her way from Rukungiri, I kept coordinating with her. I waited for her in my office, till she arrived at around 6pm. We left office, went to Mawanda road, where I wanted to check on my staff, clear some requisitions, then move with my visitor home.

We arrived and sat in the restaurant at around 6.45 pm. I asked one of the girls to serve us African tea as we sat in a strategic position to watch the 7 pm TV news.

More customers were entering, taking seats of their choice and going to different sections depending on the services they needed. I was happy but also wondered how customers were many more than ever before.

A group of 5 men entered the restaurant; they sat behind me and my friend Aryatuha Juliet. Other people occupied outside seats. All departments, sauna, gym, steam bath etc were occupied with customers. Everyone was busy and I was smiling to myself expecting good returns.

The 5 men behind our table in the restaurant had talked to one of the girls and made some orders but before they were served, one of them jumped to our table. He lifted my bag and that of my friend. The man was running away with our bags before I realized we were in danger. I tried to jump quickly to hold and pull my bag back, but the other 4 men attacked me and they were all raining nonstop, kicks, fist blows and whatever they could use against me. One of them hit me on the head with an object that completely knocked me out; I started shouting out for help while on the floor. Like myself, Aryatuha was also pinned down and beaten seriously; I saw her fall with some chairs before she stumbled to stand again.

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