Picture above: Some of my IWMF colleagues practice first aid training
The day I was kidnapped, I thought about the meaning of fellowship.
I was forced to kneel on the floor with my wrists bound together by rope,
and a hood was tightened around my face. I struggled to breathe alongside
my colleagues — I didn’t know how many had been caught — who were also
bound and hooded and led into what felt like a storage room. The
kidnappers, one wielding a machete, screamed and threatened us, and one
repeatedly struck a wooden stick on the ground to intimidate us.
We had been taught well and we tried to negotiate and humanise ourselves
with the hostage takers — we’re not worth much money, we hadn’t seen their
faces and could be freed with no consequences, we’re just like them and
have families. We could be their sisters. The assailants were unrelenting
and started to split us up.
It was then I heard one of my colleagues start to fight hard to allow us to
stay together. We didn’t know how bad things would get, and at the risk of
being singled out by the assailants, she begged for this small concession.
We were going to stick it out together. We were stronger as a team.
While the scene was one of a mock kidnapping, the lessons learned were
We’re on a fellowship, eight fellows poised to take off for Uganda and 10
of us headed to Rwanda and DRC to report. But for a few days, we were all
together undergoing security training in Kenya, learning how to save each
other from bullets, airstrikes and fire. We dragged each other to safety
using our hands, our necks, our backs. We punched and slapped and jabbed in
self-defence training, and whooped and clapped when we did well, and
spurred each other to do even better.
It was in those spare moments, over tea and samosas and evening fireside
chats, that we swapped stories, and shared some of our most frightening and
embarrassing and happy and frustrating moments on the field as reporters.
Many of us are lone wolf freelancers and the memory of bonding with fellow
female journalists was one we held on to tight.
I’m sitting at an airport now, about to take off for Entebbe. Some of my
colleagues have left for Kigali. But the others are here with me. And it’s
just the start of our reporting adventure.