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The life and death of Jimmy Higenyi

by David Ouma Balikowa On February 12, 2002, it will be exactly one month since the life of a journalism student, Jimmy Higenyi Ojotre was brutally stopped by a policeman's bullet. Jimmy, a student at UMCAT was brutally murdered by the Police as he covered the ill-fated political rally of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC). To the relatives and friends of Jimmy, January 12, 2002 will remain a black day in their lives. Jimmy had lived a life daunted by misfortunes but had always proved to be a great survivor.

Born in 1978 to Mr. Ojotre of Terego County in Arua district and Nasiwa Esther of Namulo Kaati in Bunyole County, Tororo, misfortunes and hardships rained on him at quite an early age.

According to the relatives, Jimmy was born into a family of seven children; five girls and two boys. He was the fifth born. His father, Ojotre didn't live long enough to see his son Jimmy start school. He died in 1980, six years before Jimmy joined UCI Primary School in Tororo in 1987. Six years later in 1993, misfortune again knocked at Jimmy's door when his mother, Esther with whom he was living, passed away. The desperate life of Jimmy as an orphan entered an even harder phase.

But blood is thicker than water. Jimmy moved in with his elder sister Lwanga Hanah Chandiru, an employee of Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) in Lugazi, Mukono. He enrolled at Lugazi East Primary School. After he completed his Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), Jimmy joined St. Peterís College, Tororo. But financial difficulties quickly set in, disrupting his education at St. Peter's.

During his second term in Senior Four, Jimmy's sister Hanah who was helping with the school fees, fell sick and lost her job at SCOUL. Jimmy was forced to leave St. Peter's College and was once again on the hunt for a way out. But this time, he was stuck for a solution. Determined to beat life's ugly odds, Jimmy decided to register as a private candidate at Tororo High School. When the results came out, Jimmy had scored a First Grade with 23 aggregates.

"Whether at school or at home, Jimmy was a school boy. He could read his books most of the time," said Hanah, his other sister Jane Ofwono, and her husband Charles Ofwono.

Encouraged by Jimmy's good performance, the relatives rallied to his side. He joined Bukedi College, Kachonga for his A-Levels. But once again while in Senior Six, misfortune dogged his steps. Jimmy was chased away from school as a fees defaulter.

"Jimmy was good at adjusting as situations came. We used to call him Uncle Jimmy. He later enrolled at Manchester High School in Kampala," the relatives say.

In Kampala, Jimmy lived with the Ofwonos in Wabigalo Parish, Makindye East. This was a walking distance to school. But in the third term of his Senior Six, Manchester High School shifted to Gayaza." Automatically Jimmy could not make it. There was no money for either boarding fees or transport to and from Gayaza. At this time Jimmy had registered as a private candidate with Tororo High School, again foreseeing the difficulties which would befall him "lack of school fees," said the Ofwonos.

Jimmy was at home for the entire third term of his Senior Six. He occasionally went to Kampala Public Library to revise. When the A-Level results came out, Jimmy had scored 12 points. The relatives say he applied for a diploma in Journalism at Uganda Management Institute. He was admitted but couldn't join because the tuition was far beyond his humble means.

"To Jimmy you could talk nothing but journalism as far as his career was concerned. This is how he ended up joining United Media Consultants and Trainers (UMCAT). It was relatively affordable. At this time the two sisters Jane and Hanah pulled their meager resources to get Jimmy through his studies. He joined this institute on Nov. 5, 2001," the relatives narrate.

Little did Jimmy know he would be brutally murdered two months later in the line of duty in a profession he cherished so dearly. At the time of his death, Jimmy was not yet fully armed with the training that would later have seen him enter his cherished profession. But it is apparent that he was already armed with the important element of bravery.

That is the tortuous but short life which, ended in a brutal death, of an upcoming journalist who had beaten all the odds to survive until a policeman stopped his life on January 12, 2002.

When the Police shooting to crush the rally he was covering was over, Jimmy lay down in a pool of his own blood with a paper folder in his hands. His simple, tortured but sweet life and dreams scattered by the street side.

Even in death, Jimmy's hand could not let go of that dear paper folder and pen -- key tools in journalism. What a strange fruit of Uganda's struggle for democracy, freedom of speech, media and assembly!

February 08, 2002

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." Abraham Lincoln, United States President (1809-1865)


Government behind shooting of journalism student-UPC Youth

The Uganda People's Congress (UPC) youth league has said that the killing of a journalism student Jimmy Higenyi during the foiled UPC rally was intended by the government.

The league chairman Kyeyune Ssenyonjo told a press conference that the indiscriminate shooting of unarmed civilians was allegedly ordered by a police officer Good Mwesigwa, DPC Kawempe without due regard to human life as UPC members were lawfully trying to gain access to their headquarters at Uganda House.

The secretary General of the UPC youth league told the same conference that the act is a criminal matter that should be investigated by the police.

They say UPC as a group is ready to support Ken Lukyamuzi on his consultative meeting set for January 26th.

Government has vowed to deal with any party that will hold a rally on January 26th, which happens to be Liberation day.


TRUE DEMOCRACY     Winter 2002     Copyright © 2002 by News Sourse, Inc.