I grew up in Uganda. My family were pretty well off as my father was a member of the ruling party the National Resistance Movement (NRM). However, my dad grew disaffected with the violent practices carried out by the NRM leader, Museveni, and joined the opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
It didn’t take long before this was noticed, and my dad was shot and killed, as was my older brother. When I was 21, I joined the FDC too. I wanted to try and make a difference. I was a youth campaigner, which meant that I went to rallies and tried to encourage other young people to join the party.
I was campaigning at a rally one day when I was arrested, blindfolded and taken to an Army barracks beaten up and put in solitary confinement for the next year. I was usually kept in the dark, and was abused regularly. There was no proper toilet or washing facilities. They asked me the same questions over and over again: who were my colleagues and when were they planning on holding a coup. I knew nothing about a coup, so couldn’t answer them.
They moved me to another place. It was a house converted to hold prisoners. They held me for another two years, and regularly tortured me. I was made to drink a kind of acid, they put chillies in my eyes, they gave me electric shocks and more. Time seemed like it would never end as I waited in the dark.
Then, one day the door opened, and the guard told me to come out. I followed him out of the house, all the way to a hotel. I was cleaned up, given clothes and they took my photo. Then they locked me in the room. Two days later I was taken to the airport. I was met by an English woman who had a passport for me. She told me to follow her, but not talk to her or sit next to her. We got on a plane marked ‘Kenyan Airline’ – I thought we were going to Kenya. I didn’t talk or do anything, I was so scared. In Kenya, we swapped to another plane, and landed, eventually, in England.
At the airport, the woman put me in a taxi, paid the driver and told him to take me to Lunar House, which is where the UK government deals with asylum claims. At this stage I had no idea why I had even been released from jail, let alone how I had ended up in the UK. The next few years passed in a blur of interviews, court appearances, appeals, and long stays locked up in detention centres. Although I was no longer being tortured I was still desperately scared. I felt like I was still a prisoner. No one explained what was going on, and no one believed my story.
I was in really bad shape physically too, the torture meant that I had problems with my stomach and private parts, and I threw up constantly. People did make me doctors’ appointments but I never made it to any of them because I was moved between detention centres around the country. The Home Office tried to deport me twice, on one occasion I threw up so much the pilot wouldn’t allow me on the plane.
I had a lot of bad luck, at one point resorting to living out of a skip, but I had some good luck too, especially when I found my way to Emmaus in 2010. By chance, one of the staff was going to visit Uganda. I leapt at the chance to get a phone to my mum. I knew that one of my friends would know where she was. I spoke to her for the first time in over three years, and she told me that she had sold her house and all her possessions in order to bribe the guard to get me out of jail. She also told me never to come home, as there was a warrant out for my arrest.
The staff at Emmaus Oxford helped me to gather evidence to put in a fresh appeal, including a medical report which showed that I was suffering from PTSD, and eventually, over four years since I arrived in the UK, I was given leave to remain status. It wass such a weight off my mind - I felt like I could finally relax a little.
I was experiencing fewer nightmares and I gradually started to enjoy joining in with the other companions. I learnt new skills and after over 3 years, was ready to leave and live independently.
My life now is completely different. I work as a support worker, assisting children who have a learning disability. Finally I feel that I am actually free and safe for the first time, and Emmaus helped me to get here.