Shira Nalwadda may not have known what she was getting herself into when she obliged to take a parcel from a friend in her native Uganda to deliver to another friend in Liberia while on her very first visit here.
That heart warming gesture she agreed to do for a person she described as a friend, landed her in predicament that culminated into a four year jail sentence at the Monrovia Central Prison.
This was when she was convicted of drug trafficking after being indicted by the government on multiple crimes, including unlawful possession, trafficking and distribution of narcotics.
She has since then never had a good taste of Monrovia, the nation’s capital, where she landed upon her arrival. Jury at the Criminal Court ‘C’ on Monday, April 7, found Shira guilty of trafficking 1.2kgs of cocaine valued at US$30,000. She was arrested on November 30, 2013 with the substance by a joint security assigned at the RIA. Police sources said the drugs were concealed in a black suitcase.
It has been a very tough experience for the 26 year old since she arrived in Liberia. But this festive season will be a good one for Shira because she was among 50 inmates to be granted Executive Clemency by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
“This experience has taught me a very good lesson. You can and should never trust anyone,” Shira, who was in tears, told newsmen after regaining her freedom.
Responding to a question whether she knew that there were narcotic substances in her luggage, she noted that she was actually setup: “Yes, I can say I was setup, and I must tell all of you to never trust anyone in this life.”
She said that she is happy that she is finally out of what she described as total hell. “I have never had such an experience. Life in a prison is like being in hell, and it is a bad experience,” she added.
Shira said she is coming out of prison with a renewed heart and mind and that, her experience in prison has taught her a lot.
She said her time in prison has taught her another side of life, noting that she is now coming out of prison with a humanitarian heart. “I didn’t know this is how life is on the other side. This has been a great experience for me. For what I have seen in this prison I have resolved in my heart to become a humanitarian,” she said.
She noted that the level of suffering in the compound is unimaginable. “I didn’t know this is the kind of suffering that people go through in this place. Some people don’t even have bathing soap, least to speak about towel and those other basic necessities that every human should have,” she added.
Shira was very thankful to the Ugandan Association in Liberia, which she said stood by her.
She now wants to launch a crusade to help inmates, especially the most vulnerable. She didn’t, however, indicate where she would do that – whether here in Liberia or her native country, Uganda. She also did not disclose whether she would prefer to stay in Liberia or return home to Uganda.
Shira was the only female among the 50 inmates that were pardoned by the President Sirleaf. She was one of two foreign nationals to be pardoned, the other a Nigerian. The president told the pardoned inmates to go home and reunite with their families for the festive season. This was after she had warned them to never again get involved in unwholesome acts that would return them to prison.