Our love survived a bomb blast

Benson Mwesigwa and Aidah Kobusinge first met at a graduation party where one was in the company of a sister’s friend. Men being natural born hunters he had spotted a prey he vowed to hunt down. Little did he know he was starting a life long journey with Aidah who knew nothing of having fallen into the radar of Benson’s preying eyes. “I was smitten when I first saw her and I promised myself to visit my friend’s sister at her hostel to have a closer look at her friend,” says Benson.

Unknown to her that she had an uninvited guest, Aidah was called from the hostel’s common room where she was watching a premier league game to come and say hello to her friend’s guest. “When I was called I was reluctant to go. I waited until the end of the match, I went and said hello. I popped by briefly and when I said I was leaving he asked to leave too. We escorted him and along the way he asked for my phone number but I did not make an issue of it. Little did I know that it was a first step to a nine-year journey we have walked together so far. He called me a few days later and the rest is now history,” recalls Aidah.

Fun and merrymaking

Three years into their relationship, disaster struck. Aidah loved watching football and it was the time for Africa as the vuvuzelas made their mark with the World Cup final in South Africa. As tens of thousands of soccer fans looked forward to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, terrorists were planning otherwise. Like most soccer fans, the couple were looking forward to the final match. Not being able to watch it from Ntinda View where they had gone to attend the launch of a friend’s wedding meeting, they went to Country Gardens in Kintintale which was Aidah’s preference because of its proximity to home. “I decided to pick up my younger sister and brother to come and watch the game with us. However, the venue was packed to capacity and that is when we agreed to go to Kyadondo Rugby Club where Ben’s friends had asked us to go earlier on because they had booked us seats,” Aidah recalls.

“At Kyadondo Rugby Club, all was fun with merrymaking and a lot of mchomo, and all sorts of drinks,” Benson recounts. For Aidah, it seemed business as usual until about the 70th minute when the first blast went off. “I was supporting Netherlands and my team was not doing well in the first half. I was praying that when the match resumed they would do better, but I never got to see them do it.”

Terror strikes

The two blasts happened at different intervals with the first being mistaken for a power blackout since the venue was close to the power plant. The couple was separated by the bomb blast. Aidah after regaining her consciousness despite being wounded on the head was concerned about the whereabouts of her young brother. Instead, her sister pointed out that Aidah was bleeding. “My young brother was not in sight. Having realised it was a bomb I was worried about him. I was blaming myself should anything happen to him.”

While Aidah was searching for her brother, he had joined the rescue team at the gate helping injured people get into cars to go to hospital. His sisters were not part of the plan. “Having failed to see him I relented as they were urging us to get out. It was while at the gate that I saw him busy helping the injured.”

While Benson was among the first people to get out of the venue he had no idea his future wife was among the injured. “When the first bomb went off, I felt so much pain on my right jaw through the ear. It felt like something was burning me. When I touched my jaw blood was oozing. At first I thought electricity had gone off but the screen was still on. I suspected it was a bomb I took off forgetting my girlfriend now my wife. To date, I do not know how I disappeared from the love of my life- I guess I had an adrenalin rush. As I reached the exit, the second bomb went off confirming my earlier instinct.”

Rushing for dear life

Despite the pain, Benson took a motorcycle to Mulago hospital. “I feared to drive thinking I would die along the way. And I wanted to reach the hospital as soon as possible.” At Mulago hospital it was a different scenario. “A nurse gave me a cotton wool ball to hold against the wound and sit on the floor in the corridor as my injury was not considered high risk.” All this time he had not known what had happened to his colleagues. And to make matters worse he had Aidah’s phone. “After sometime my friends called and I told them I was at Mulago hospital, they came and tried to take me to the emergency room but it was full. What happened thereafter I didn’t know I only realised that I was in a different place after feeling the hooks piercing my cheeks as the doctors were dressing my wound.”

For more than two hours neither Benson nor Aidah knew each other’s location. In their group of eight people only he and his girlfriend were injured. “When I first rung her number, the phone vibrated in my pocket. Two hours later I reached her sister. She told me Aidah could not speak to me on phone. That’s when I got to know she had suffered an injury as well and had been admitted at Internatonal Hospital Kampala (IHK). I blamed myself for having accepted to go to Kyadondo where my friends were.”

Much as Aidah’s injuries were not life-threatening she had not known how her boyfriend was faring having been rushed from Lugogo to IHK by a Good Samaritan. “Aidah learnt of my injury from her sister on Sunday morning.”

The aftermath

They were both out of the hospital in a couple of days but became outpatients for months. Benson had to undergo a reconstructive surgery on his jaw bone. During that time of medication communication between the two got strained. “We were not seeing each other often but we communicated via sms, because our injuries would not allow us to talk much on phone. We always made it a point to remind ourselves how much we loved each other.”

Having been the only ones who got injured, Benson says, this was a bonding factor in their relationship. “I think the incident made our bond stronger, we were the only ones in the group who sustained injuries.” Though Benson was discharged from the hospital the next morning, more hospital visits were to follow.

“I went back to the hospital the next day with a swollen face and did a CT scan. The scan showed I required a reconstructive surgery on my jaw and it could only be done once the swelling had reduced. A week later, I underwent surgery but I was an outpatient for two months thereafter,” explains Benson.

Unlike him, Aidah’s injuries were not that severe to warrant an operation and she was by boyfriend’s side, though she was also an outpatient. She tells of the moment she got to know that her boyfriend had been injured. “I remember saying a prayer for him while in hospital, I asked God to keep him safe. I think the incident made our bond stronger.”

Proposing marriage and after

Two years after the incident, Benson Mwesigwa made his intentions to marry Aidah Kobusinge open when he proposed to her. “It was a surprise, he was working in Rwanda I was in Kampala. He called me up in the morning as he usually did to wish me a good day and happy Valentine’s Day. That evening he appeared at my work place to take me for dinner and a movie. That is where he proposed from,” says Aidah Thought it took a bit of time to propose the first time I set my eyes on her I knew she was to be my wife, says Benson.”

As the rest of the survivors were preparing to mark three years of the attack Benson and Aidah were preparing for their wedding. Aidah says it was not planned to coincide with the bomb anniversary. “We didn’t even think about the bomb anniversary when we were setting the wedding date, it was the only time we could both have a long break from work,” she says. The couple were later blessed with twins. “These boys are so sweet and they make our lives very complete, that’s why I’m more convinced God spared our lives that day because he still had so many miracles that he wanted to be manifested in our lives,” says a beaming Aidah.

The Kampala bombings

The July 2010 Kampala terror attacks were suicide bombings carried out against crowds watching a screening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final match at two locations in Kampala. The attacks left 74 dead and 70 injured. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militia based in Somalia that has ties to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the blasts as retaliation for Ugandan support for AMISOM.

The first bombing was carried out at Ethiopian Village restaurant situated in the Kabalagala neighbourhood, with many of the victims foreigners. Fifteen people died in this attack.

The second attack, consisting of two explosions in quick succession, occurred at 11.18 pm at Kyadondo Rugby Club in Lugogo, where there was a screening of the match. According to eyewitnesses, there was an explosion near the 90th minute of the match, followed seconds later by a second explosion that knocked out the lights at the field. An explosion went off directly in front of a large screen that was showing the telecast from South Africa, killing 49 people. The discovery of a severed head and leg at the rugby field suggests that it was a suicide attack carried out by an individual. A third unexploded vest was later found. A Uganda Police Force officer stated the total death toll as 74. Further 71 were hospitalised, 14 of whom were treated for minor injuries and later discharged.

SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR