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Winnie Byanyima: How Our Family Friend Almost Raped Me

Winnie Byanyima. Courtesy Photo

UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima has narrated how a family friend almost raped her as she sought help to leave the country for further studies in the late 1970s. 

Byanyima, one of Uganda’s most prominent women, recently told BBC’s Desert Island Discs that her family was concerned that if she remained at Makerere University, she would be subjected to blackmail, especially after she told off one of her lecturers who wanted her to exchange her body for marks.

With her family making a decision that she should leave Makerere and seek admission abroad, Byanyima and her family set out to find help on how to process travel documents during Idi Amin Dada’s time.

Wife to opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye, Byanyima further narrated that a family friend who knew some generals who mattered in the Idi Amin government was asked to help her.

Aged 18 then, Byanyima was beautiful, bold, confident and assertive. She didn’t leave her confidence behind on that day in 1977 when she went to meet the family friend.

Apart from processing travel papers, this family friend had other ideas.

“We got to his apartment, he put on some music on his player. The song was The First Cut Is The Deepest and he came to grab me,” Byanyima told Desert Island Discs.

“I screamed, he was embarrassed, he stopped, put me in the car and dropped me back at the university and said I was stupid, I was childish. ‘These things happen’. He called it: ‘Things happen.”

Byanyima went on to revealed that at 18 she had “never had a relation with a boy”  and described the encounter with the family friend as “an attempted rape.”

WINNIE BYANYIMA: I’m not a Rwandan

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