GULU, UGANDA — Late last week, IJM and Gulu police worked to re-arrest a Ugandan man accused of stealing the home of his widowed sister-in-law—and threatening to kill her if she ever returned. He has been officially charged and will face trial for these acts of violence in the coming months.
The man was first arrested in November 2012 for beating the widow and threatening her with an axe. But he was released on bond and avoided other attempted arrests with the help of well-connected friends.
Earlier this year, he threatened to hurt the 27-year-old widow again. As IJM attorneys continued to build the case, social workers found secure housing for her and her four children. She soon felt safe enough to start farming her land again.
"Now she knows she is not alone, someone really cares for her and will stand by her." - Eva Kadi, IJM Gulu Director of Operations
Terrifying Threats of Violence
Last week, the widow went to check on her crops—her family's main source of food and income—only to find them hacked to the ground. Her brother-in-law saw her there and raised his harshest threat yet: "If you or your children ever set foot on this land again, I will slash your heads with a machete."
Terrified, the widow called her IJM social worker, and the two reported the violent threats to police. She helped police locate the man; at last he was re-arrested and sent to jail.
But later that night, local police told IJM that a higher official—a friend of the brother-in-law—was allegedly planning to release him. IJM attorneys worked tirelessly with other authorities and district officials to ensuire the man was transferred to a prison where he would be held until he was to appear in court, in accordance with Uganda's laws. Now in jail, he cannot threaten the widow again.
"We kept trying to the get the police to come and help us," says Director of Operations Eva Kadi. "We pushed and pushed different people until they came to act. We were finally able to get the law to work."
With Official Charges, Justice Can Begin
On Thursday, the man was officially charged in court for assault. He will stay in custody—beyond the reach of his powerful friends—until the trial begins. IJM and police will work together to build the case against him.
The widow and her children stayed in a secure location until she felt safe enough to return home. She feels more confident with IJM by her side and trusts that the police will help her if she needs.
Eva says, "Now she knows she is not alone, someone really cares for her and will stand by her."