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Mental Health: At What Point Do We Decide that Someone Really Needs Our Help?



By Daniel Kakuru.

In May 2019, Chukwuemeka Akachi, a twenty – one year old student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka committed suicide.

He had, by the time of his dissolution, enjoyed a stint in the limelight as a writer of poetry and short fiction. His poem, Meeting My Therapist, had just been published in the debut issue of the Kabaka Magazine, a gay pride and queer arts project.

His short story, Sixteen Notes On How To End A Life, had also been nominated for the 2018 Chronicles Short Story Prize. He had been longlisted in the Okike Prize for poetry and had also boasted of space in the honourable mentions.

He was the poetry editor at The Muse, a creative and critical writing journal at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. This (The Muse) is probably Africa’s longest surviving students’ journal.

At his send-off, his friends said Akachi was a life that promised so much but delivered so little. They said he was a young man that dreamt dreams and did not wake up to chase them. They broke down and wailed like babies. But what is there to do when one has killed oneself?

Akachi died the third time he attempted to take his life. First, he used kerosene but it didn’t work. Neither did petrol when he chose it at his second attempt. But an insecticide called Sniper did the trick when he downed two bottles. On his Facebook page was a suicide note; an apology to whoever would find his body.

His life was a journey from the nose to the eye – short and uneventful. It was a build up towards the inevitable. He battled depression and its roots could be traced back to a childhood during which he endured abuse by his mother and sister in the absence of his father.

Little wonder, whenever he picked up his pen to write, he wrote about sadness; about death; about a god that looks away while mortal men suffer. He lost his faith, wrote about it, attempted suicide, wrote about it and eventually coined out a genre of his own.

Whenever he wrote about his inner battles with mental health on Facebook, he was gagged. He despaired, cried and begged for help, but it didn’t come. Instead, he was called things: loser; weak man; attention seeker. But such is the stigma associated with mental illness in the black community.

It was only when he succeeded in killing himself that everyone realised poor Akachi should have been helped.

Do you remember Chester Bennington? He announced himself onto the scene in the early 2000s as a powerhouse of voice in Linkin Park, one of the greatest rock bands on earth. Throughout his life, he was open about his struggles with depression, addiction and drug abuse.

In almost every interview, he spoke about his inner pain, pleaded for help, but it hardly came.

His was also a turbulent childhood. Up to the age of thirteen, he had been enduring sexual abuse by a much older female, prompting him to turn to drugs for help. Before eighteen, he had abused cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and worse things.

Little wonder, he got carried away by the storm these drugs always bring and by the time he tried to turn back, it was too late. The addictions had grown much stronger than the will to quit.

Chester strangled himself in July, 2017. His widow blamed herself for his death. Today, she still believes she should have done more to save him from himself. She wishes she had known what she knows now, and he would have lived longer, to paint his name in the books of history.

There were enough warnings and she didn’t pay much attention to them; she didn’t take them seriously. But such is the regret that follows unfortunate events. We always go back to our past and wish we had turned that particular stone.

Chester’s death came shortly after that of Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden frontman. Both died by suicide. Whereas Cornell eliminated himself in May, Chester did in July. It was at the former’s send-off that the latter made his last live performance, the best in his lifetime.

It is likely, he hatched the plan to finish himself off on that day and nobody saw through him; nobody muscled in to disrupt him.

Jeffrey Epstein’s story is not so different. He was an American teacher who later metamorphosed into an economist. By the time of his imminent death, he was a convict in a Manhattan federal prison facing charges bordering on sex trafficking.

He killed himself in August, 2019 in a prison cell where he was staying alone on suicide watch while the guards supposed to be watching him slumbered. One week earlier, he had tried to strangle himself and failed.

He had been assigned a new room of his own with guards to check on him every after thirty minutes. But on the night of his demise, the guards had slept off. The inevitable happened and by the time he was found unconscious, it was too late to save him.

When the world crumbles down on people and they become suicidal, the pattern of events is always similar: the hopelessness; the sudden change in behavior; the self isolation.

These are signs that do not take long to be noticed. It is our collective responsibility to reach out to them and offer a helping hand whenever we can. We should not wait till they are dead so that we collect condolences and type, “R.I.P” or “Gone too soon.”

Suicide and self harm are preventable.

Such is the situation we are grappling with in one of the circles I belong to. Over forty hours ago, a classmate of ours took to his Facebook page, posted a grotesque picture of his crying self and announced that he now fears this life more than he fears death.

As if that was not enough, he slid into each of his friends’ private inbox and begged for help. The message he sent was similar: “Hi bro, please help me get a job so that I can earn a living. Life is now too difficult for me to handle.”

When his issue was tabled before our virtual WhatsApp group which is a home for more than a hundred active members, it was unanimously agreed upon that we pool some resources together, help him travel from Namisindwa District to Kampala where he will try his luck in capturing a vacant job opportunity.

As I type this, my eyes are clouded with tears. Over thirty hours after the topic was brought up, nobody has donated a coin. Right now, the said brother is deep in the bowels of Namisindwa District probably looking for the quickest means of terminating a fruitless life.

His trusted circle of friends are in the know of what is going on in his life, but are unable to contribute anything tangible to his survival.

God forbid, but I am sure that if he were to be pronounced dead, we would wake up and immediately raise millions of shillings in form of condolences. And that is the irony of life. Before death strikes, we are never convinced that someone is really held against the wall and is in need of help.


The author Daniel Kakuru is a lover of stories and social commentary. He believes that he is no more valuable than a mug of porridge. He writes under a Facebook hashtag #MugOfPorridge and blogs at



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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded




The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  

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Museveni issues ultimatum to police boss




Museveni flagged off distribution of motorcycles for NRM chairpersons

President Yoweri Museveni has given Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ochola a chilling ultimatum: You either do your work or I will do it myself!

Museveni disclosed the ultimatum he gave to the IGP today Monday at the NRM secretariat at Plot 10 Kyadondo Road in Kampala where he was flagging off the distribution of motorcycles to parish chairpersons of the ruling National Resistance Movement party across the country. 

“I told the IGP that if the police doesn’t do their work, I will do it myself by arresting the police officers themselves,” Museveni stunned his audience as he commented on the electoral violence that marred the NRM primaries held on Friday last week. At least 4 people were killed across the country during the primaries. 

“There was violence in Bukono county [Namutumba district] where people were beaten. I got information that police has not done much work. Some (policemen) have been arrested and given police bond; there is no police bond for somebody who has attacked Ugandans!,” Museveni added. 

Museveni vowed to deal with all persons who messed up the party primaries.  In some parts of the country, there were massive regularities where candidates who had been defeated ended up being announced winners. In some places like Namutumba, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Jinja, Katakwi, among others, there was violence that led to the killing and wounding of civilians. Museveni said that they are going to make sure that all those who participated in these irregularities and violence are held to account. 

Museveni said although the violence was orchestrated by the politicians, the police personnel are to be held accountable for failing to contain it.

Last week, police spokesman Fred Enanga warned police personnel especially those guarding VIPs against being drawn into the politicians’ political wrangles, reminding them that they would face the music if they did. With the president now threatening to go and conduct the arrests of errant policemen himself, IGP Ochola is likely to move fast to avert the spectacle. 

Museveni wondered why police would shoot at unarmed people who were fighting amongst themselves: “That policeman must be arrested; even the ones who are threatening people you will go to jail for that if we get evidence,” a seemingly incensed Museveni said.

He also said that the state minister of Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana who was captured on camera attempting to shoot people over the weekend in Ntugamo after he lost the  Rushenyi primaries, will be charged with threatening violence and attempted murder. 

 “This game is finished,” Museveni said.

Rukatana has since been charged and remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district in western Uganda. Museveni called upon all those dissatisfied with the election results to write petitions to the regional panels of elders which he said are going to be constituted to hear all election complaints.

“We are going to get three respected people who are not part of the struggles, then we shall go and audit village per village and we shall discover. If you have committed forgery, the registrar or the politician who ordered,  you all shall go to jail. The game is finished; the voting is by lining and if you miss-add, you are ‘miss-add’ yourself,” Museveni said.

Museveni’s speech came shortly before that of Justine Kasule Lumumba, the secretary general of the NRM who called upon the president to reign over some senior people who with impunity were freely changing the results of the elections.

“Some of our staff were lured into changing declaration forms on the way forgetting that people who had participated at the village don’t need to write; they registered the record in their faces…Some have done things with impunity… in Butemba county Kyakwanzi district, one of the candidates who got 3,000 votes brought in soldiers, cordoned off that place and was declared a winner and off they went away,” Lumumba said. 

The ball is now in Ochola’s court to get the police to execute their duties professionally and with impartiality. In March 2017, President Museveni warned Ochola’s predecessor Kale Kayihura to clean the police force of wrong elements. As months passed with no visible sign of police officers shaping up, Museveni resorted to other security agencies who started arresting rogue senior police officers and charging them in the military court for various crimes.

Kayihura was then removed from office, arrested and jointly charged with the errant officers in the army court. To avoid similar fate, Ochola is likely to use a firmer hand on the police officers so that by the time of the February 2021 elections, there is no laxity in the force’s execution of its mandate to maintain law and order.

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