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A decade behind closed doors ----Uganda

FREE AT LAST:Kiyingi and his wife Nuwabine share a happy moment.

At 7:30am daily, Sunday Francis Kiyingi leaves his three children and wife at home and heads for work. He would happily bid them farewell and later lock them up until 5:30pm when he returned from work.

The routine has gone on for 10 years. The family house is a basement at a building on Entebbe Road, Kampala, Uganda owned by businessman John Barenzi. The house has no electricity or water. It has no toilet or kitchen. A ‘door-less’ fridge serves as a cupboard for utensils.

Jerrycans of water are strewn around the “living room”. The house is divided into three sections, with one passing as the main bedroom and the other as the children’s room.

A single window is the only outlet that brings in fresh air for the family. Kiyingi’s family has for the last decade used that window to peep at the normal world outside.

If it were not for an inquisitive citizen, Kiyingi’s family could still be locked up in their house. “We received a tip off on Tuesday from someone who come to the police station telling us of a man who locks up his family the whole day,” says Corporal Agnes Asibazuyo from Entebbe’s Child and Family Protection Unit.

Asibazuyo and two other police officers then headed for Kiyingi’s residence. “We found the door locked with a padlock. The children with their mother were staring out of the window. There was a crowd near the house eager to know what was going on. The mother asked us to unlock the door. She told us how she is tired of being locked in the house,” narrates Asibazuyo.

Although Kiyingi says his wife agreed to the arrangement before they started a family, psychologists believe a deep-rooted problem exists. “I’m 40 years of age. My education stops at the secondary level. I met my wife 10 years ago. She was 16 years old. We met at a building site in Entebbe where I was working as a store keeper. I explained to her what kind of idea I had about running the family, which she accepted. I told her I would be locking her in the house as I go out to look for money. She agreed to the arrangement,” says Kiyingi.

As we conducted the interview, the front door to the house is open but strangely the children are not playing in the compound. They all shuffle around their dim-lit room chasing each other. When asked whether they fear going outside, the youngest daughter, shyly smiles and runs to hide in her bedroom. All this is watched attentively by their father.

“I locked them in the house because I feared for my children’s health. They could fall in the trenches or perhaps pick up diseases from the sewage in the area. I also fear for my wife getting into quarrels with the neighbours. That is why I locked them up,” says Kiyingi.

However, there is no trench or sewer near Kiyingi’s residence. On the contrary, the compound has a large patch of well-kept grass. As for the neighbourhood, it’s a far cry from chaotic.

His immediate neighbour Ashraf Kato says he never bothers to talk to the family. “Why would I talk to them? Since I moved here three years ago, the family is always locked up. I only see the girls everyday looking through the window,” he said.

Kato also reveals something that could possibly point to Kiyingi’s state of mind.
“One day his mother came to visit him and he wanted to lock her up in the house. The mother refused. She got a mat and sat outside the house. Kiyingi locked his family in the house and left his mother seated outside and headed off to work.”
Mr Paul Nyende, a lecturer of Psychology at Makerere University says Kiyingi’s behaviour suggests dominance and pathology.

“This is a cruel violation of a person’s rights. This is not the way social relations are managed,” he says. The same view is shared by police officers who arrested Kiyingi on Tuesday night. “He seems unstable. He talks a lot. He doesn’t stick to one answer and appears to have dominance over his wife,” says Asibazuyo.

Jacqueline Nuwabine, 26, is Kiyingi’s wife. She says jealousy is behind her husband’s actions. “That is jealousy. How do you explain someone who doesn’t allow you to walk out?” she asks, and later smiles.
But behind Nuwabine’s smile lie hopelessness and an acceptance of her fate as normal.

“She first told us when we came over to arrest the husband that she does not want to live in this situation anymore. Then later told us she was fine with the situation. She actually begged us not to take the husband away claiming no one would look after the family if he is gone,” says Asibazuyo.

Kiyingi was arrested on Tuesday and released the next day after he wrote a commitment letter in which he agreed not to lock up his family again.
He proudly says his family has received his uttermost care. “I have never beaten my wife or raped her. I have always looked after her. What happened will seem wrong to some people but if you put my story with her in context, you will see that there is nothing wrong in what I did,” says Kiyingi.

To that explanation, his wife giggles as the children play in the house, even when the door has been open for close to two hours.

In Summary

Kiyingi and family

•He has three children. The eldest is a boy aged 10 and two girls aged four and three years. The boy goes to School. The others do not. Kiyingi claims his wife and he, educate the young girls in the evening.
•Kiyungi is a storekeeper and cleaner at a construction site.
•The wife, Nuwabine, spends her day sowing mats and baskets and cooking for the family.
•Nuwabine goes to the salon in the company of her husband. She has a mobile phone that she uses to communicate with Kiyingi.
•When the children fall sick, both parents take them to hospital.
•The wife supports Arsenal and follows the matches on radio. The husband supports Manchester United.

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