KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan nanny on Monday pleaded guilty to charges of torturing a child who was under her care in a case that shocked Ugandans and sparked debate about the role of maids in raising children in this East African country.
The nanny, 22-year-old Jolly Tumuhiirwe, was convicted Monday although her lawyer voiced concern that she had not been given a fair trial. She will be sentenced on Wednesday and faces up to 15 years in jail.
In a video widely circulated on social media, Tumuhiirwe is seen slapping, kicking and stomping on her employer’s child, a girl under the age of 2. The video had been recorded by a secret camera planted in the house by the child’s father, who beat the maid when he saw the footage. The maid then reported a case of assault to the police, but the man presented footage of the nanny beating up his daughter to explain his violent reaction, according to Ugandan attorney Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a lawyer for Tumuhiirwe.
The lawyer said his client did not understand the torture charge and would not have pleaded guilty if he had been present in court. He said he was late for the court session Monday and asked for an adjournment that was not granted. “She has been convicted on her own plea of guilty. She did not understand what she was pleading to,” he said. “You cannot charge people with such serious offenses unless that they have legal representation in court.”
When the video was released on social media last month, it sparked an uproar among Ugandans shocked by what appeared to be the savage beating of a toddler who had vomited food the nanny forced her to eat. Local police initially said she would be charged with attempted murder, and the police chief, Kale Kayihura, has since called for the official vetting and certification of potential nannies before they can be employed.