‘Uganda’s vendetta weapon - acid’
A version of this article has appeared on the Google news website and was written by by Max Delaney (AFP) on 2nd February 2012
She’s one of the latest victims acid attacks in Uganda, where criminals have turned to the cheap liquid as a cruel means of attack for punishment or for revenge. Her husband Joseph, a local councillor, barely able to move from the pain as he struggles to recover after being attacked along with his wife last month. “We were sitting outside our small shop when an attacker threw acid over us and then disappeared,” says Kobusingye, 24.
Used in personal vendettas or business disputes acid attacks have become an increasingly common way over the past decade of settling scores in Uganda. Doctors at Mulago said the number of cases more than doubled in the December holiday period and local media reported over 40 attack victims had been admitted to hospitals in Kampala. “Every festive season we see an increase in the number of victims we receive,” says Robert Ssentongo a senior plastic surgeon at Mulago hospital. Some victims require extensive surgery placing additional burdens on already-stretched medical resources.
Although police are yet to arrest anyone, Kobusingye said she suspects her husband’s ex-wife was behind the attack. “We had read about these sorts of attacks before in the newspapers but we had never experienced anything like it in our village,” said Kobusingye, a mother of one. Sociologists suggest the growth in such attacks could be due to a collapse of trust in the police or legal system to handle disputes, along with a wider breakdown of traditional family structures as people flock to the cities. “The shift away from traditional values and the inadequacies in the country’s institutions is affecting the way people respond to the problems and disputes,” said Peter Atekyezera a sociology professor at Kampala’s Makerere University.
The acid used in attacks is often readily available at places like petrol stations, including acid used in car batteries. The impact of an attack on the victims’ lives is immense, said Prudence Komujinya a co-founder of the Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda. “It is really, really challenging physically, socially, economically and psychologically, as survivors with disfigurements are often stigmatised by society,” said Komujinya herself a survivor of an acid attack. While police and the judiciary have become better at dealing with acid attack cases, calls for new laws to restrict access to potentially harmful chemicals have not produced results. As for the victims now battling for survival in the burns ward of Mulago hospital, Komujinya said that even with the support of families and friends they will face a long struggle to rebuild their lives. “It is a long journey to try and recover,” she said. “A lifetime journey.”
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Posted on February 03rd 2012 by Office in ASTI news