11 January 2011 - Tabita Nambugo had been a patient in the maternity wing at the Maridi Hospital for 18 days when the Southern Sudanese referendum vote began on 9 January.
She arrived there following a 21 December Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebel attack on her village in Maridi County, Western Equatoria State.
Eight attackers, four with rifles and four with machetes, accosted the seven-month pregnant Ms. Nambugo, her husband John Arayo and their two-year-old daughter Edia in their home in Mboroko village that fateful night.
“We were sitting in our compound when they came at around 7 p.m. They shot my husband and started looting everything in the house,” said Ms. Nambugo.
After looting, the attackers bludgeoned her head with a machete and left Ms. Nambugo for dead. Her husband and a neighbour died in the attack.
Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) officers found Ms. Nambugi and a crying Edia and transported them to Maridi Hospital on 22 December, where she has been recuperating.
“When I woke up I found myself in hospital, then I remembered the attack and thanked God for keeping me alive,” she said.
Determined to cast her ballot in the region’s self-determination referendum, the 19-year-old was one of 258 people who voted on the first polling day.
After the LRA attack on Mboroko, officials moved the village’s polling centre, one of the 25 in the county, to Maridi, where villagers had fled for safety. The centre had 419 registered voters before the LRA killed two of them.
“I am still feeling bad pain, but I didn’t want to miss the vote,” said Ms. Nambugo. “The hospital helped me by assigning an ambulance to take me to the polling centre.”
Going back to her village is no longer an option for Ms. Nambugo, as she is unsure whether the SPLA or Arrow Boys can guarantee her security by stopping LRA attacks. The Arrow Boys include local men and boys who have taken up the war against the LRA in Western Equatoria State.
“I will not go back home even to harvest the ground nuts, maize and cassava in our farm,” the widow said. “I may start brewing Marrisa (local beer) here in Maridi to earn some income when I recover and get out of the hospital.”