“I could see bodies on the ground, people bleeding, others dead”July 19th, 2011
On 11th July 2010, terrorists struck the Kyadondo rugby club in Uganda, killing 80 innocent young people who were watching the World Cup finals. Diana Phoebe, a 25-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent, witnessed the horror first-hand. Here she recounts that terrifying night.
Since the beginning of the month of June, Ugandans have been remembering, sharing stories, and hearing testimonies and experiences about the July 11th bombings that robbed Uganda of over 80 citizens last year.
The bombings were the worst terror attack in the country’s short history.
What was meant to be a time of joy during the finals of the World Cup turned into a great tragedy that left scars on the hearts and lives of many Ugandans.
Innocent football fans who went to watch the finals of the World Cup 2010 in harmony as they cheered on their teams and favorite players soon lay dead even before the 90 minutes of the match elapsed.
When these fans walked into the rugby club and the Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala, they thought they would walk out that night either happy for their teams or hoping to win next time. Little did they know that not all would be make it out alive.
Ahabwe Albert, formerly a journalist for the East African Business Week and currently working with a media consultancy, was at Kyadondo rugby club when the bombs went off. He shared with me his experience at the rugby club.
Being a journalist I had to be there for the finals at Kyadondo rugby club and I set off with a friend almost near the time when the match started. We were not checked when entering the club because no one suspected anything, it was a Sunday and most people preferred to watch the match from home, except the youth who always looking for an excuse to hang out with friends and enjoy the match together.
I sat right at the front in the corner because I wanted to see everything clearly. The night kicked off with performances from a famous artist, Bebe Cool, who arrived in a wheelchair because he was recovering from an operation after being shot a few months back. Bebe Cool performed and then we had a vuvuzela contest to see who blew the loudest sound using their vuvuzela.
Later on we started watching the match. Free drinks were being offered to journalists but for some unknown reason I just found myself in one place. I did not leave my seat. Many of my friends who were journalists left and went to get drinks. We were over 2,000 people in that place. One hour into the match and some people were already drunk and everything seemed to be going on normally.
Suddenly, after half time, five minutes into the game, the first bomb went off and the screen was affected but kept showing some pictures of the match. I jumped out of my sit and headed to the front where the screen was. Then I started wondering whether it was a bomb or just an electricity problem but I did not go back to where the crowd was, thinking back to when I first heard the sound of a bomb in 1999 in Kabalagala.
Before I could make my next move, the second bomb went off. It was louder than the first and the ground beneath me even shook. That’s when I was sure it was a bomb. I panicked but had to think fast because I knew I had to leave the place just in case there was a third bomb.
I guessed that the third bomb could be in the parking lot so I tried as much to avoid it and look for another escape route. At this point it was every man for himself. As I panicked I could see some bodies on the ground, people bleeding, others dead, others screaming for help.
Then I heard a voice from a fellow journalist shouting for help. He was holding a friend in his arms and she was bleeding terribly, so I helped him carry her to a nearby car and she was rushed to hospital. Then finally I found an escape route and left the grounds, not sure where some of my friends were or even if they had survived.
I tried to look for a place where I could buy airtime. I then went to a nearby petrol station that had a guard who was a friend. He told me that I was bleeding and my shirt was drenched in blood. I could not feel any wound but he kept on insisting that I was bleeding. The lady who also works in the petrol station started screaming when she saw me but I couldn’t feel any pain and had no wound or cut.
I removed my shirt to be sure. Then I saw the back of my shirt, it had blood and some small particles of flesh had splashed onto it. That’s when it hit me that the people sitting behind me might not have survived. They were total strangers but it was very traumatizing to know that they were dead or probably still fighting for their lives.
I bought airtime and called my friend, his phone first indicated that it was off but I tried again and it was busy so gave me hope. The third time when I called he picked up and told me he was on a motorcycle on his way home. My friend and the other journalists, who were at the table for drinks, just jumped into the trench after the first bomb and then waited to see that there was no other bomb, before leaving the drain. I later found out that another bomb had gone off at the Ethiopian restaurant in a suburb called Kabalagala and 13 people were reported dead.
This is an experience I will never forget. Over 70% of the people at rugby club were youths and 74 were reported dead and others are still missing to date. My right ear was affected. To date many people still suffer the effects of the bombs at the rugby club and Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala.
This year on 11th July 2011, Ugandans remembered their loved ones, who passed away as a result of a terrorist attack. A memorial service was held at Kyadondo Rugby Club.
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