Thursday, 2 February 2012
Esther Chesire her demise led to the death of Nanziri Bukenya
By Timothy Kalyegira
On March 5, 1976, a student of the Faculty of Law at Makerere University, Paul Serwanga, was shot dead by an army captain who had developed an interest in his (Serwanga) girlfriend. The next day, 4,000 university students took to the streets in Kampala calling for the overthrow of President Idi Amin. They were later joined by 30,000 city residents in this protest march.
A week later a Kenyan student at Makerere, Esther Chesire was arrested at Entebbe airport by agents of the dreaded State Research Bureau counter-intelligence agency just before she boarded a flight to Nairobi. She had been booked on the flight with her friend and fellow Kenyan Sally Githere. Chesire was never seen again. Whether there was any connection between Chesire and Serwanga or if she was indeed his girlfriend was never certain. Had she been an eyewitness at Serwanga's murder, and therefore had to be silenced? Was she the ringleader of the students who had called for Amin's ouster without realising the danger in such outspokenness tempted fate? The Kenyan government pressed Ugandan officials to launch an inquiry into Chesire's disappearance and possible death.
Theresa Nanziri Bukenya the warden of Africa Hall at Makerere University, the hall that Chesire resided in, was arrested by security agents. She was eight months pregnant. She had refused to testify before the commission assigned to investigate Chesire's disappearance. Bukenya's beheaded body was dumped near the Africa Hall grounds the next day. Source: monitor.co.ug Chesire was said to be a relative of Kenya's then vice president and later president, Daniel Arap Moi. Her unexplained disappearance at the hands of Uganda's intelligence agents caused tension between the two countries. Following the disappearance of Chesire, it is said that Amin's intelligence agents mooted many and offered flimsy explanations to cover up the girl's whereabouts and one of them being that she 'never reported back' for studies at the beginning of the term. Refused to conspire Behind the scenes, the security agents were trying to force Nanziri to carry this lie to the commission.
Nanziri, a staunch catholic with high moral value is said to have openly told off the agents and insisted she would tell only the truth. Chesire had reported at the beginning of the term and signed into her hall's registration book.
With Nanziri's pending testimony, the regime would run out of excuses and face even more diplomatic embarrassment and possible charges on crime against humanity. In the 7th month of her pregnancy, Nanziri, a brilliant and inspirational mathematician who had gallantly fought off many attempts by unruly Amin soldiers to kidnap and abuse female students by providing ample security lights around the hall knew that this time she was headed for a show down with the regime. She could not betray her conscious and Chesire by lying to the very commission that was supposed to find her fate. Nanziri argued that by lying to the commission, she would not only do it on behalf of the regime that was intent to murder every one considered its opponent, but also that her lie would effectively end the commission's proceedings since the girl would be considered never to have been in the country in the first place.
Nanziri never made it to the commission. She was picked a day before and murdered in cold blood at the banks of River Ssezibwa. It is reported that the residents who lived near the river heard her cries as she begged for mercy. She was 37 and just married to Achilles Bukenya, who now lives in South Africa. Nanziri weds Bukenya at Saint Augustine's, Makerere. Grief filled campus According to Dr. Musoke, Nanziri's murder sent shock waves in the entire university community, particularly to female students who considered her a symbol of bravery before the regime while at the same time reminding them that no one was safe from it. "The university was so cold. Gloom hovered all over us and most of us girls felt really orphaned that day. It was a horrible scene seeing two bodies-Nanziri's and her babies' lying in the main hall," recalls Musoke who was a first year student then.