IJM Kampala: After Terrifying Threats, Man Arrested and Widow Safe
- Fri, 02/15/2013
KAMPALA, UGANDA – Ramona* has endured much hardship since her husband passed away, leaving six children to her care.
Ramona's husband had purchased the land when he was still living, and they had planned to build a home for their family. When he became sick, Ramona took on that building project. She built the house, brick by brick, on her own.
After her husband passed away, her relatives started bullying her to leave her home and give up her children. They threatened to kick her out of her hand-built home and take her farmland—her family's only source of food and income. She knew there was no way she could feed her children or keep them in school.
Fortunately, IJM heard Ramona's story in 2011 and stood up for her rights. IJM attorneys helped stop the threats against her and secured her land with official boundary markers in December 2012. It seemed she was safe at last.
Apology No Remedy for Violent Threats
But as Ramona began to return to normal life this year—setting up a small shop to sell vegetables she grew—another relative tried to force her from the land. He destroyed the boundary markers IJM had planted and made astonishing threats of violence to the young mother: He promised to kill her children with a machete, one by one, if she refused to leave.
Ramona was rightfully terrified. Just when she thought their troubles with the home were over, they were once again afraid to stay. She says, "Every time my children see [that relative], they are so scared—and I felt powerless."
After these new threats, IJM worked quickly to hire private security to keep Ramona's family safe. Next, IJM attorneys and investigators began working with police to plan an arrest.
But the man heard about the plans, and he tried to avoid being punished. He apologized to Ramona on his knees, saying he would replant the markers and leave her alone if she would drop the case. Remembering his terrifying threats and her scared children's faces, Ramona stood firm.
In a carefully planned operation, IJM and local police arrested the man on February 15, 2013, and took him to jail. He was officially charged in court with threatening violence and removing the widow's boundary markers—charges that warrant up to seven years in prison.
Feeling Safe at Last
IJM will continue to post security at Ramona's home as the case progresses. The day after Ramona learned her relative was arrested, IJM Kampala's Deputy Field Office Director Kathryn Wilkes said, "After weeks of being terrorized and living in fear, last night Ramona and her children were finally able to lie down and sleep in peace."
There are still challenges ahead for Ramona, but she is a strong woman who knows her worth in the community. She is proud that her children can go to school—they walk an hour each way. IJM helped her purchase pigs that she can raise to earn an income.
The man who threatened Ramona's life and tried to steal her property is now out of prison on bail. In fact, he lives next door to Ramona. But she says that his arrest sent a strong reminder to her in-laws and neighbors that it is wrong to abuse women like her. And Ramona knows she is no longer alone.
"Now I don't have to look over my shoulder anymore," Ramona says. "All the people who were behind him are going to respect me now. Now they know it's wrong. They know I'm not weak. I have IJM to help me."
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