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Koriang, a Ugandan woman sentenced to death by military court

On Friday, newspaper headlines in Uganda featured the story of Judith Koriang, a 20 year-old woman was sentenced to death by the Court Martial in Soroti over the murder of her  soldier husband, Nelson Okello. According to the story, Koriang shot her husband with 30 bullets.

I intended to write something on this story, something I found a mess by the reporting of this story but I was in transit. A few hours later I see a story by Ultimate Media, which suggested that women activists in Uganda want to protect the murder. I find such reportage and conclusions abhorrent. It’s an easy way out on reporting a story. Just like the court that sentenced the woman, the failure to look at the condition of this woman is something we need to revisit.

It is not only Ultimate Media that has failed to critically report this story but it’s their shallow look at the concerns of women activists that rather shocked me.

The media in Uganda led with this story but failed to ask important questions regarding justice. As usual we are caught in the hotness of the story and we only realize we are not asking the important questions later. Why was the woman tried under the military court? How was the trial carried out? A civil court would look at this case differently no doubt.

This was Ultimate Media’s intro:

As long as murder cases have been committed by a woman, there is no problem at least in Uganda. The women rights activists in Kampala have today shocked the whole world when they pledged to assist a woman who was sentenced to death for killing her husband.

Beyond what transpired in the court, the media don’t want to look at the events in the lead up to the murder which could have a big impact on how this woman is tried. There’s a lot of violence against women who are HIV positive and there’s general lack of knowledge about discordance.

Even when women activists turned up and gave them an opportunity to revisits their coverage and the trial we are eager to jump to conclusions.

There was no connection of this kind of murder to the bigger picture.  Of course joining the condemnation is easier than critically analyzing such a case and the concerns of the women activists and the media often looks for the fast easy of interpreting events.

True Koriang killed her husband but under what circumstances? The soldier had accused this woman of bringing HIV to herself, an issue that is a sticky one for women in Uganda. Many women are isolated by families, kicked out of their home with no property and at worst if they stay they endure eternal suffering.  How we deal with such injustices will determine the occurrence of crimes like the one Koriang did.

Many men in Uganda continue to refuse to go for HIV tests and when women do find out about their status, they are blamed, battered and killed. There seems to be no distinction between who infected and who found out about the infection.

HIV is behind many domestic violence related deaths and therefore a mention such a factor in the case should make one think of the conditions of the woman before she committed murder.

This is not to suggest that Koriang was innocent but there seems to be more condemnation reports in the media than inquiries.

Ultimate Media quotes the Executive officer of FIDA Uganda, Maria Nassali who suggested that Koriang could have killed her husband out of “anger and provocation.” And this was enough for Ultimate Media to conclude that FIDA was protecting a murderer. What these reporters refuse to look at is the right of anyone murder or not, to a fair trial.

I need to know why this woman was tried by the military court when it is only her husband who was in the military. Why is the military taking over domestic violence cases? And why won’t the media question the ability of the military court to deliver this woman justice. I do support the efforts of the women activists in trying to make sure this case is re-visited. Not because I want to see Koriang absolved of the murder but that she gets fair trial and all conditions be factored in the trial. Her situation before she killed her husband matters a lot especially to many Ugandan women being battered every day.

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9 thoughts on “Koriang, a Ugandan woman sentenced to death by military court

  1. Steve NDIKUMWENAYO says:

    Thank you Rosebell for your reflexion. The first reaction from me is the following: The death penality should be first banished in Uganda and elsewhere in the World.
    Otherwise, I totally agree with your analysis. Keep us informed and good day

  2. Grace says:

    First, you should not be surprised by the reportage of Ultimate Media. They do not seem to care how they report stories.The kind of journalism they do is highly questionable
    Apart from that, i totally agree with you. The story was just sensational and maybe for some media, exploring such cases means not making it ‘juicy’.

  3. Rita says:

    Have you ever felt totally helpless after reading something? That’s how i feel, but i agree, i hope she gets a fair trial that will look at what led to her killing her husband, whether she goes to jail for death sentence or not?

    The stigma with HIV and the cheating always being a woman’s fault even when it is the man who has cheated is a big problem in almost this ‘man world’ everywhere especially in our Africa.

    God help us.

  4. You’re quoting Ultimate Media?!

    My well-known bias aside, the entire story wasn’t really reported on until the very end. Unfortunately this is the fate of most stories related to domestic violence … or indeed any other gender issues in Uganda.

    That aside, there is a case going on at the UPDF 3rd division involving civilians accused of killing Nakibus Lakara’s son in a highway robbery in Karamoja. The three accused men have not been granted a proper defense counsel and mark my words, they will be sentenced to death. Theirs is the fate of many in Karamoja … Theirs is the fate of all of us in this broken state.

  5. Hello,
    Just landed on this…and i’m perturbed that such a story refered to was written by my media house. My apologies on behalf of Ultimate Media. It was such shallow reporting, if it was reporting at all and not the writer’s comment. We have had many cases of shameful stories with unprofessional reporters, liars, and instances of plagiarism. We have tried (believe me) to ‘delete’ such reporters, and problems keep cropping up, just like in all other media houses…the challenge is that the crop of genuine hardworking journalists is increasingly becoming a limited species….

    While i agree with the concern of the article, i must state that we as a company take journalism seriously and our reporting process is working always to root out such problems. In fact, We have done some of the most commendable reporting on domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and women’s rights issues and therefore such generalisations about a media house of eight years because you have read one story (we produce over 40 daily) is not fair,

    To wit
    gender based violence a growing concern in Uganda
    http://www.weinformers.net/2010/03/26/gender-based-violence-a-growing-concern-in-uganda/
    UPDF Bill to punish Women on Pregnancy
    http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/31/424746/Ultimate%20media
    African women at high risk of HIV infection
    http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/31/372003/Ultimate%20media
    A law to punish people who knowingly infect others with HIV
    http://www.ugpulse.com/health/a-law-to-punish-people-who-knowingly-infect-others-with-hiv/509/ug.aspx
    Female Genital mutilation continues despite health repercussions
    http://www.ugpulse.com/health/female-genital-cutting-mutilation-fgc-fgm-continues-despite-damaging-health-repercussions/587/ug.aspx
    Apac women crying for a dog that can work
    http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/31/633735

    These are just a few examples and i hope we can avoid generalisations that use a bad spot on a cloth to taint the otherwise clean cloth and hard work of the washer

    Gerald Businge

  6. It’s not Ugandans who are unfaithful to each other. It’s the antibody tests that are unfaithful. Nobody ever wants to question the tests, because there’s too much money to lose and jobs. Even ater this nobody has said or done anything.
    No vaccine, no safe treatment, no cure, no questions after 30 years ! Isn’t something awry? In House of Numbers: Anatomy of an Epidemic, an AIDS film like no other, the HIV/AIDS story is being rewritten. This is the first film to present the uncensored POVs of virtually all the major players; in their own settings, in their own words. It rocks the foundaton upon which all conventional
    wisdom regarding ‘HIV/AIDS’ is based. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p-ttLfkZHQ

  7. well before you blame the media for not digging deep, you shud know if its a weekly daily or monthly or if the story is a feature, profile or human interest because that to matters

  8. Maj. Ronald Iduuli Defence Counsel General Court Martial says:

    your worries over Koriang’s case are mine. Right now am handling her appeal in the Court Martial

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