A small circle builds up near a classroom block at Kisita primary school in Bugangaizi county, Kibale district.
The men stare in dismay; the children take a glance and run away to hide behind their mothers. The women hold their mouths, murmur a few words and spit on the ground.
In the middle of the circle stands a boy, scratching himself and waving off flies. He wears a sad, tired look as he scratches his hands even harder. The rhythmic scratching causes a wound where his fingers dig in.
David Muwezi, 14, is a pathetic sight. Hiding under a hooded jacket and a dirty pair of jeans, Muwezi’s head, body and feet are covered in wounds and swellings which produce pus. His flaky skin is as white as a ghost’s, and his agony knows no bounds.
The flies that swarm around him make him even more uncomfortable. When he sees a man walking out of a classroom with a plate of food, he gets up to ask for his share. People run from his path lest they contract his terrible ailment.
Undaunted, Muwezi has come out of his hiding to attend President Museveni’s rally so that someone can see him and offer help. But no one wants him near the crowd where the VIPs are asking for votes. He is too sick to associate with the rest of humanity!
Over the loud speakers, he can hear the Bugangaizi MP, Marble Bakaine, inviting the President to speak. Museveni preaches against segregation and tribalism among the Banyoro and Bafuruki (immigrants).
A more cunning woman, who is also seeking Museveni’s attention, shouts on top of her voice for his help. Security officers try to push her away but the President orders them to give her a seat and leave her alone.
When he’s done addressing the rally, Museveni calls Anna Namara forward and offers her a sit next to him. He tells his people to give her what she wants. As the rally ends, Namara struts down her path with a spring in her step, an envelope in hand and a big smile across her face.
Muwezi stays at the back with a plate of food offered by a guest and after a while, he tells his story, not to the President, but to anyone who can listen.
“I have been sick for two years but the doctors at Kisita hospital examined me and didn’t find any infection in my blood,” Muwezi says.
And since the hospital doesn’t have the capacity to carry out further investigations, Muwezi was sent home.
Home is a church building in Kisita village which Muwezi says is run by Pastor Pelitazi Mutabazi. Muwezi’s mother died when he was four. When he contracted the strange disease, his father, believing Muwezi was possessed by spirits, took him and his brother to church for prayers.
On day two of the prayers, the father disappeared with another man’s wife and they have not returned since. Muwezi’s brother, who was older and healthier, was taken as a herdsman; his whereabouts are unknown.
Often, Muwezi is seen roaming around the village looking for food. The brave sometimes offer him food, but many times he is chased away for fear of spreading his strange disease.
“I go to the market and people give me food. Those who can give me these clothes to wear,” Muwezi says, as he digs into his plate of matooke, rice and meat.
“These days, I use herbal medicine that someone from the market gave me.”
Obviously, the medicine isn’t working. What Muwezi needs now is a right diagnosis but he doesn’t have the transport to Hoima hospital, neither does he know which way to take.
He wishes he would go to school like Ronald Muwanguzi, a student in uniform standing nearby, staring at him. Muwezi would love to sit with Muwanguzi and listen to the teacher.
“I want to be a doctor so that I can treat myself,” he says with so much innocence only a little boy, and a big dreamer, can afford.
After he’s done with his food, Muwezi moves from car to car, stretching out his sick hand, asking for a coin. Some close their car doors and look the other way.
Others throw a coin in his hand, very careful not to make contact. As the rally breaks up and people head home, Muwezi covers his head and heads back ‘home’ too - the church building.