On an ordinary day, Bwatansimbi in Buloba Parish, Wakiso District, is a sleepy hamlet of limited and largely peasant activity.
But Wednesday shattered that routine and innocence. At around 3pm, a convoy of police vehicles raced to the cell with workers armed with hoes, spades and pick axes.
On the team were homicide and forensic experts, scene of crime officers (Socos) and uniformed men and women from the operations directorate of Uganda Police Force. Their mission was one: find a suspected covered grave.
The grotesque and criminal deed they sought to unearth may have happened more than a year earlier, one forensic officer estimated yesterday, but the secrecy surrounding it began melting at the end of last month.
Faizal Muwanguzi, who looks younger than his stated age of 50, brutally assaulted two of his children on July 30. His teenage step-daughter was reportedly elsewhere, and he too left home that Saturday.
The battered children, aged seven and nine, fled to neighbours with bulged, bleeding heads. They also had bruises to their faces and backsides.
Alarmed, the neighbours reported the matter to the village chairman, Mr Dan Kiwanuka, who in turn alerted Buloba police.
They summoned and arrested Muwanguzi whom the Bujjuko Magistrate’s Court early this month remanded to Muduma Prison on charges of causing grievous bodily harm to his own children.
Things appeared to have quietened. Yes, they did, but temporarily. It was a kind of calm before the storm.
Mr Kiwanuka had taken the injured children under his wings for three days, pending the arrival of Good Samaritans.
Sozo Christian International Ministries, founded in the United Kingdom by Pastor Marion Daniel, emerged as guardian angel for the two battered siblings and their elder teenage step-sister. The ministry’s mission is to “bring wholeness to the world through Jesus”, according to information on its website, making good its benefactor role in Buloba.
Muwanguzi, according to police, had told detectives that his 33-year-old wife, Mariam Nabukenya, had gone abroad to work in an unnamed country; so, the Child and Family Protection unit at Buloba Police Station found comfort in turning the troubled children over to the Christian organisation.
That process involved the Wakiso District probation officer, Ms Joanita Mukalazi. Her motherly engagement mollified the children to speak with ease and make disclosures that turned out revealing in more ways than one.
They did not only know the whereabouts of their mother, but also two siblings. One child in an innocent recollection hinted that they once saw their father Muwanguzi digging a hole by the side of the family house, which he later covered.
An alert went off and police was notified. It is this disclosure that prompted the Wednesday search at Muwanguzi’s home on Wednesday.
Secluded in a perimeter wall, which is plastered but not painted, the rusty gate to the only house gave an aging edge to a suspected old crime whose fresh revelation by the children dovetailed with the life of blooming banana plants on the compound.
The arrival of the police drew the attention of curious neighbours. They began massing up. The suspect’s children led investigators through the gate and onto the left where swaying banana leaves waved with nature’s pride. The children pointed at a site.
The land strip between the house and perimeter wall fence is narrow, about two metres wide. It had rained over the past days; so, the softened loamy soil was easy to remove. The men hollowed out the earth, digging up and out mounds of sticky clay soil as the excavation deepened.
Neighbours and passersby held their breath. Some women clasped their hands across their chest. Others contorted their faces and buried their cheeks in folded palms. Children and teenagers jostled for a closer look, but police ringed them off the taped scene of crime.
Adults conversed with each other on random subjects, most of it to kill time. The residents did not believe opening of the site in the day’s sweltering heat would yield anything, not least dead bodies.
And that is exactly what it revealed. Not one body, but three bodies. One of the remains were of a woman whom the children, based on the clothing, identified as their missing mother. It was suspected the other two bodies were of the siblings their father had claimed to have surrendered in the care of a distant relative.
As the remains were pulled out, one after the other as they had been interred in the same grave, the crowd cringed. A sordid smell swept through. Flies buzzed. Anxiety morphed into anger and pain and then welled into wails.
Men and women shook their lowered heads in disbelief.
“I did not accept it from that man (Muwanguzi) because he could tell us that his wife went abroad to work; so we are [now] waiting for police to finish its investigations,” Mr Kiwanuka said.
The digging began at about 3pm, with some delays, but it was in the twilight when the bodies were retrieved. Police transferred them to the City Mortuary at Mulago in Kampala, pending autopsies and DNA tests to, respectively, ascertain causes of death and identities of the victims.
As the bodies left, emotions overwhelmed the village, and some residents openly wailed.
“…we worked together with Wakiso police and Buloba police stations to search the home and confirm whether it could be true [that Muwanguzi had buried his wife secretly]. On August 24, 2022, led by his child, the body of the mother of the children was found there [in a grave] and the [teenage] girl was able to identify the mother,” Ms Mukalazi, the Wakiso district probation officer, said.
A forensic expert estimated that the bodies were likely buried five months to nearly two years back.
The professional guesswork may not be wild.
A neighbour, who identified herself by the moniker Hajat Saluna, told this newspaper yesterday: “I last saw the deceased woman (Nabukenya) during the second Covid-induced lockdown”.
That was June 2021, some 14 months ago.
Police during the exhumation had simultaneously tried to search the house, but they found its two bedrooms locked. They stopped. Reason? The main suspect, Muwanguzi, was unavailable — of course, on remand at Muduma Prison — and he could turn to disown recoveries made during a search of his house in his absence.
Dressed in a blue shirt, navy blue trouser and wearing a class black shoes without socks, he showed up yesterday at Bujjuko Magistrate’s Court to hear a judgment of his trial for causing grievous bodily harm.
“Your worship,” he said in a reverential address to Grade One Magistrate Isaac Imoran Kintu, “The count you have read to me, I did not do it intentionally.”
“I got annoyed like any other parent and slapped him (one of his children), but it was not intentional. That’s why I am here before you,” he added.
The delivery of the verdict had come at a possible wrong timing for Muwanguzi. Surreal news of the find of three dead bodies in a secret grave at his home, had spread near and far.
Court attendance yesterday was a record high, with many present more interested in knowing the suspect than hearing his final defence or the outcome of his case.
The small courtroom filled quickly, with those outside craning their necks through the windows to hear the proceeding and see for themselves the accused.
Grade One Magistrate Kintu, after listening to Muwanguzi’s plea for leniency, said the accused had pleaded guilty and not wasted court’s valuable time, but one of the victim had testified that the father regularly tortured them.
“…the court noticed that the act of conduct [alleged torture] was so brutal in that at the time of plea-taking, the victim had bruises all over his face and that confirmed that you were brutal to your own child. For those reasons, I do sentence you to three years of custodial sentence,” the magistrate ruled yesterday.
Those in court sighed.
As the three-year imprisonment closed the short trial, another phase opened, one of pending murder charges and likely lengthy prosecution.
In short, Muwanguzi, as from yesterday, turned a convict of causing bodily harm to his own children and separately stared in the face a trial for alleged murder of his wife and two children. The only wait for now is for police to complete investigations.
The mystery is not just about the commission of the offences or their alleged cover-up. Residents said Muwanguzi, whenever present at home, often blasted loud music that they now suspect was to muffle the cries of agony and death in his house.
Not only did residents not know much about his deeds. He held out as a businessman, but the details of his enterprise remained unknown. Worse, neighbours had no clue where he lived before settling in Bwatansimbi village in 2016.
Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, the deputy Police spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan, said police in Wakiso are investigating the murder of three people that were found buried at Bwotansimbi Village Buloba parish Wakiso sub-county in Wakiso District.
“The motive of the murder is still unknown. However, one of the children said his parents started having issues when Mariam informed her husband that she intended to go and work abroad as a domestic worker,” he said.
He said additional charges of Murder will be preferred against Faizal Muwanguzi who is currently serving a sentence of three years for Aggravated torture of his 16-year-old child.