Breaking the silencePowerhouse

I Live In Grief And Terror For My Children- Jackie Nsenga Speaks Out For The First Time

On 23rd September 2013, 36 year old Kampala businesswoman, Jacqueline Uwera Nsenga, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of her husband, Juvenal Kananura Nsenga. Currently serving the sentence from Luzira Women’s Prison, Jackie in an exclusive interview with maintains that she is innocent and worries about the safety of her children.  Talking with composure and a lot of emotion at the same time, Jackie talked candidly about her incarceration, her marriage and unwavering faith in God.


“Right now I don’t have the indulgence of anger, I am extremely afraid for my children because they are at the mercy of people who can’t be trusted.  I didn’t murder my husband; everyone concerned knows that by now, I am just locked up because of an agenda that has nothing to do with justice. I would understand my late husband’s family’s rage at me for the accident that took away their son/ brother but to turn me into a murderer just to satisfy their own needs is simply monstrous.

I was never given the chance to grieve my husband or comfort my poor children; this is the most hurtful thing anyone could have ever done to me. It is for this reason that I refuse to be wrongfully labeled a murderer and will fight for my innocence.

My children have already lost their father and I will not ruin their lives further by accepting to be wrongfully labeled a murderer. I know that they don’t doubt my innocence but they have to put up with the oppressive public opinion. I don’t want them to spend their lives worrying and fighting to convince whoever they meet about my innocence. That isn’t a legacy a mother wants her children to inherit.


How it all began

I met Nsenga when I was just sixteen years old and like all teenagers I believed that I had met my prince charming and was going to live happily ever after.   At that time I was living in Nairobi and he was a fairly successful businessman in Kampala. We did the long distance relationship for a short while and decided to get married. We wedded and settled into marriage bliss. Our joy was increased by the birth of our first born our daughter Jade.  Honestly at that time life just couldn’t have gotten any sweeter.   I remember feeling like the luckiest woman in the world after returning home with my baby and my proud dotting husband by my side.

Nsenga was smitten with his baby girl. He would spend hours watching Jade as she slept in her crib. His tenderness always took my breath away. He was a proud husband and father and wasn’t afraid to show it. Unlike most of his cronies he was very hands on with his daughter and would feed, play and even babysit when time allowed.

We were planning to have four children so my second pregnancy a cause for celebration.  Nsenga was so happy that he organized for me to travel to the USA with my little girl to deliver our son.  We stayed in the US after the birth and came back to Kampala six months later. Having been away from each other for such a long time I expected him to be excited to see us back and probably create time to be with us.


The beginning of the end

Our first night back home was such an anticlimax that it took me a long time to get over it. I remember my daughter and I holding back the tears at the cold reception: he just came greeted me like a stranger, patted our daughter’s head, peeped at his son and rushed out of the room.  At that time I reasoned that he needed time to get used to us after being away for such a long time.  But this went on month after month, year after year.

The Nsenga I knew had disappeared and now I was living with this cold, insensitive person who spent most of his time either partying or recovering from the previous night’s extravagancies. I was shocked; I was disappointed and scared for our marriage. I discussed my fears with him and implored him to change.  When things got out of hand I enlisted family members especially my father-in-law to intervene. But nothing much changed.

This is when I turned to God for divine intervention. I discovered that I wasn’t the only one going through these hardships. Turns out that his brother was also living the same lifestyle, in fact they were always together partying till dawn.

Throughout all these challenges I still believed that things would get better. I never gave up on Nsenga, deep down I believed that one day he would break the spell that had overtaken his life and come back to us.  But in the meantime things changed from bad to worse. There was a total communication breakdown not just between the two of us but with the children too.

I remember whenever either of them wanted something that needed money, I would advise them to go and talk to their father themselves. In most cases they would just decide to do without whatever it was they wanted in order to avoid talking to their father. My son who was still much younger would warn his sister not to disturb their father because he was still ‘oozy’ his childish word for hangover.

It felt as if we were living in different worlds because we rarely saw each other. He would come home in the morning and go to bed when everyone was leaving for school or work.  The worst day in this lifestyle was when he went out and failed to come back home. I called his phone but it was off, I called several of his drinking buddies but they were unhelpful. I started panicking, wondering what could have happened to him because I knew that that wasn’t like him. When I couldn’t take it anymore I called my father-in-law who called me to his home. We sat and had a long chat that involved a lot of tears on my side and sympathy on his side. The humiliation and disappointment were worsened by my having to beg my father-in-law for money to buy food for the children which he gladly gave me.

This is when I decided to start working. I asked him for some money which I used to start Mr. Tasty Chicken in Ntinda. I later sold the business and started a hair salon but I also later sold it because it needed a lot of my time which I couldn’t afford with two young children and a falling marriage.  I invested the money in kids’ clothes sub-renting in a shop on Zai Plaza. In addition to this business I was also supplying uniforms to different companies.


The tragic day

The fateful day began like all our other days. He came in in the morning and I was getting ready to take my son to school and continue to work. The only urgent matter was our daughter’s visiting day a few weeks later.  I wanted him to go because she loved it when he visited her at school. I reminded him that his brother’s child was also in the same school so it would be better if they went together. ‘Yes that’s a great idea.’ he said as I walked out of the house. That day was a very busy one for me I had several meetings with suppliers and clients. In the evening I went to my cousin Jackie and her husband Rugasira’s café Good African Coffee for a wedding meeting. I sat there with the other organisers making calls, reminding people about their pledges since I was the treasurer.  Some of my relatives and friends found me there and came up with the idea of taking my sister Carol Rutega for dinner since she was back visiting from the USA where she lives. But the plan didn’t come through because Carol said she was tired that day and we rescheduled for the next day so I went back home.

I arrived at the gate and hooted. When no one came to open I rang the bell but it also took a while. Later the gate opened but I didn’t pay any attention to who had opened. As the person was pushing the door out of the way, the car jerked and try as much as I could I couldn’t control it.  I struggled with the car with the aim of hitting a pavement to break its momentum and as I swerved I hit the person at the gate. All this happened in an instant but it felt like a lifetime. When the car finally stopped and I got out, I saw the lights and TV in the living room on, then I saw Nsenga’s car. I felt relief wash over me knowing that he was home and would help me. In my heart I knew I heard knocked the maid.

I raced to the house calling his name and telling him to come out and help.  And that’s when I heard a deep voiced groan coming from the gate. The more I called the more he groaned trying to tell answer me. My first thought was that probably the gateman had come back. He had left in the morning for some family emergency. I ran back to the gate and that’s when I saw him still wearing the clothes he had on in the morning when I left.

Some emotions are so intensely unique that they cannot be aptly verbalized or explained because one doesn’t have prior references to relate to.  Years later, I still have no words to describe the mixture of emotions that hit me. I remember screaming all over the place for someone to come help me save my husband.  Help from the neighbor’s gateman who along with and others helped me carry Nsenga and put him in the back seat. At this point I was feeling as if my heart had exploded in my chest and was operating on auto pilot.

But he kept me focused. ‘Sweetie it is ok. I will be fine, calm down.’ He kept telling me as we drove to Paragon hospital in Bugolobi. He was more tender and loving than he had been in a long time. Because the room was small the staff was allowing only one visitor in the room at a time. While I was outside waiting, he asked his brother to call me to the room.  When I go there he told me to get the stuff in his pockets and keep it. He also asked me to call his father but I told him that I had already called and he was on his way.  As I was stepping out of the room, his father came in and one of my brothers-in-law told him that I had ran him over. Nsenga overheard him and angrily corrected him. ‘I didn’t say that, I said the car had accidentally knocked me.’ He shouted in obvious pain. His father told him that he understood and calmed him down.  Like I said I was operating on autopilot. I remember my father-in-law telling everyone to go to their respective homes since the situation didn’t look bad at all. A few hours later, my husband passed away and the media circus began.

I cannot talk about pain; people who allow themselves to feel pain have the luxury of knowing that at one time it is going to end. Mine is eternal. Nothing is more frustrating than the loss of one’s ability to change their life. Much as my innocence is clear, I continue to languish in a maximum prison and my children continue to live as orphans in the world; there is no deeper pain than that.


If I could change anything, I would have taken time to know Nsenga more.  He was an exceptional human being, loyal, kind and very generous to everyone.

He was a loving father but there were so many facets to who he was yet I fell in love with only one and failed to come to terms with the others. Knowing who he really was would have equipped me better to deal with whatever challenges came my way.

I don’t blame myself for staying in a dysfunctional, toxic marriage because I had faith that it would get better and I didn’t want to deprive my children of their father’s love.  In his own way I know he loved me and that’s what always gave me hope that things would get better and that’s why I stayed.  I know that he hated injustice and he is probably turning in his grave at how things turned out.