Acid attacks: Guard your life

Janet Mukatetero seems to be sleeping peacefully in Ward 7 at CHK Hospital - until she turns towards you. Her face then tells a big, painful story. Livid scars are all that are left of her swollen face. Her eyes are lost to vicious blistering. She sees nothing.

Janet Mukatetero seems to be sleeping peacefully in Ward 7 at CHK Hospital - until she turns towards you. Her face then tells a big, painful story. Livid scars are all that are left of her swollen face. Her eyes are lost to vicious blistering. She sees nothing.

Mukatetero, 25, has been in hospital for three months after being cruelly attacked with acid. With difficulty she tells me what happened.

"It was around 6:40 p.m., and on my way home from work I was approached by a stranger, whose hands were held behind his back. I was to find out that he was hiding a plastic cup full of acid."

Seconds later, this man whose identity she does know, threw the cup and its contents into her face, and the acid cascaded down her body.

"At first it felt like cold water on my body," she recalls clutching my hands as if trying to remember every single detail of that fateful day.

Though she had never seen her attacker before Mukatetero suspects that the horrific incident is somehow connected to a man (names withheld) whose advances she had rebuffed.

"Perhaps I have made some mistakes but there is absolutely no excuse for doing this to me," Mukatetero feebly tells me. Tears roll down the cheeks of her sister who sits at her side.

The perpetrator of this hideous crime is still unknown. And it has not been possible to connect the alleged snubbed lover to the events. Though he was arrested, he was later released as there was insufficient evidence to put him on trial.

"I was not present to give my side of the story so he had to be released," Mukatetero revealed.

The New Times has been unable to contact the man Mukatetero suspects.

Despite unrelenting pain, Mukatetero gains strength from the love she has for the father of her child and she remains hopeful, looking forward to the day she will return home so that they can live together as husband and wife.

"The father of my son, Karangwa Jean Marie Viane has helped me so much. He is understanding and has shown much compassion," she says.

Mukatetero passes her days in hospital listening to a small radio that sits beside her bed. "I was comforted by Mr Bean and Jean Baptist of Radio Ten who visited me and offered to talk about my experiences on their show, although that’s not the only reason I like radio. I always listen to the news, ‘Amakuru Yo Muri Quartier’; I want to be informed at all times," she says managing a small twisted smile.

Before the attack, Mukatetero worked at Karinda Bread Centre Company Limited (KBCC) where she met the suspect, whom she also describes as "heartless" and "inconsiderate".

A few minutes prior to the incident, Mukatetero had been talking to him on her mobile phone. She was advising him to find another girlfriend since she had a son and was soon to be married.

"There are many girls in Kigali, I wish you would find another one and leave me alone," she had told the man.

"That’s why I still believe that he must have been part of the gang that ruined my life," she told.

Mukatetero’s body is completely deformed and she has also totally lost her sight.

Once beautiful but now shockingly ruined, Mukatetero may never see again. According to her family, her eyes have to be operated on in Dar-es-Salaam as soon as possible.

"We would go to Dar-es-Salaam but we lack the means to get us there," says Fridah Mukamuganga, Janet’s mother and only living parent.

She has been able to get her travel documents but has been unable to raise the funds she needs for transport. On top of these costs she needs money for food and drink. Doctors have told her that a good diet and plenty of liquids are imperative to her recovery.

Mukatetero’s future hangs in the balance. If she does not make it to Dar-es-Salaam she will never see again.

Ends

 

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