Baby Arnella Kamanzi strikes you with her contagious smile. Her charming baby white eyes and cute lips twinkle as she throws her tender arms and legs around her mother and mutters an innocent word or two. The moment a stranger holds her, those cheerful eyes get teary and a strange frown overlaps the adorable sweet smiling face. She screams and struggles to liberate herself. When her parents embrace her, the jolly face returns instantly and beams with an even brighter smile that mellows your heart.
For the last three days, baby Arnella has arguably been the most passionately discussed topic on social media. In the video, a visibly angry Jolly Tumuhirwe is seen feeding baby Arnella using a spoon, forcefully putting the spoon in her mouth and angrily barking at her while she herself partakes of her food from the same plate and spoon. The baby vomits on the floor. Tumuhirwe pauses, gathers her anger and viciously throws the baby off the couch, hitting her head on the tiled floor. She follows her, spanks her severely with a torch as the girl cries her heart out. She then kicks her and puts her entire weight on the girl’s back before dragging her to be washroom, where the recording ends.
Thus is the emotive power of the video that when Daily Monitor visited the 18-month-old baby at her parents’ home in Nalya, a Kampala suburb, the family was yet to recover from the ordeal.
Her mother, Angella Mbabazi, is still overwhelmed with emotion that a narration of the ordeal leaves her with bouts of tears, often breaking down.
“Another maid had recommended her to us. She told us she was from the village (Rukungiri). It is only after this nasty incident that she told us she was actually a maid in Nakulabye before coming here,” she told this newspaper yesterday.
The mother of two said whenever she attempted to dig out her background, Tumuhirwe would shift in the couch, get sweaty and blubber a standard one-word response. Ms Mbabazi did not read between these lines that signaled danger early. She hoped one day her house-help would open up. She had only worked with them for 26 days.
As days went by, the two parents returned home from work only to find Arnella limping, with wounds and bruises. Not once, not twice. Tumuhirwe feigned ignorance and gave a standard response coated with a thick Rukiga accent, “Simanyi.”
“Whenever we returned home we would find the house clean, she would bathe the children, feed them and take them to bed. Our first born goes to school so no one could tell us the source of Arnella’s bruises. That is when we installed CCTV cameras in the house,” she shares.
After fixing the close circuit television camera (CCTV), the parents again found their daughter unwell and checked the footage, only to find the horrific video of a near-hell experience.
On November 13, Mr Eric Kamanzi reported the matter to Kiwatule Police Post where he tendered in the video. The maid was immediately arrested and the case transferred to the Divisional Police Headquarters at Kira Road for better management.
“It is sad. I can’t describe how I feel. We shared the video on social media so that other parents can learn from it,” she says, adding, “By the grace of God, baby Arnella is fine. She got medication and recovered. She is well and God protected her, we are grateful.”
At this point, baby Arnella innocently interrupts her, keeping her eyes off strangers, as though to cement fear for anyone else but her parents. The effect of the brutality meted out on her speaks volumes.
Meanwhile, Kampala Police have amended the charge sheet of the 22-year-old maid, from torture to attempted murder.
However, Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, said in a press statement:
“The charge against her has been amended to attempted murder upon re-perusal by the Resident State Attorney and the pending lines of inquiry in advanced stages.”
“The maid admitted to partly hitting the infant with a torch, a process that was captured in the video clip. She was further subjected to medical tests and established to be a person of sound mind.” He added
Ms Mary Karooro Okurut, the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, yesterday commended the restraint of Arnella’s parents.
“Given the magnitude of torture meted out on their child, anybody would have picked the nearest object and killed the maid but he followed the law. We are also forwarding to Parliament the 2014 Children Amendment Act to strengthen the law on child abuse,” she said.
It’s still so emotional for me. Human beings can be cruel; even animals have more compassion.