How a bullet changed Ovulemi’s life forever

She was going to market after court annulled Uhuru win when shot came

In Summary

• She became famous in Kawangware after news spread 'pregnant' woman was shot

• She had a long and painful recovery, and losing her job thereafter made her suicidal

Caroline Ovulemi, who was shot by a stray bullet in 2017 in Kawangware
Caroline Ovulemi, who was shot by a stray bullet in 2017 in Kawangware

Earlier this year, Caroline Ovulemi sat on the floor of her bedroom in a shirt drenched in tears and sweat after crying for hours past midnight. 

She had just finished writing her suicide note and next to her was a rope she would use to hang herself. 

Ovulemi had harboured the thought of ending her life the entire day. Even her children had noticed something was off with her that fateful evening. 

Normally, the single mother of two would share her bed with her youngest daughter. But on this day, Ovulemi told her daughter to sleep on the extra bed in the other room with her elder brother. 

One might judge her for the selfish act she was about to make, but from her perspective, Ovulemi knew she was justified. Her energy had felt drained and her spirit distraught for months. 

"I had nothing left in me, no will to keep fighting. For a while it had felt like I was suffocating in the middle of the street, and no one could see me dying, no one could see me suffering," she said. 

Just before Ovulemi could move to hang herself, her son walked into her room and asked her if all was well. 

"He never steps into my room and he is also a heavy sleeper. I was surprised when he came in and that he was still awake," Ovulemi said. 

Her son saw the rope and registered what Ovulemi was about to do. He was aware of how tough their situation had come to be over the years. 

"He asked me what I was about to do. He said he and my little daughter would grow up some day and take care of me. That our situation would change someday," Ovulemi said. 

For that night, at least, she shelved the suicidal thoughts and tried to force herself to sleep.

But sleep was evasive as all she could think about is the day her life changed and took an unprecedented turn. 

There was tension between those who supported Raila and those who supported Uhuru. But there were no protests that day and neither was there any police officer in sight
Caroline Ovulemi


In an interview with the Star, Ovulemi showed us a bullet wound and stitches on her belly, while saying and reiterating that she is no thief.   

Her life was changed by a bullet one Thursday evening in late October 2017, when she left her house to go buy supper for her family. 

This was the period right after the 2017 General Election had been nullified by the then Chief Justice David Maraga, and Kenyans were heading for a rerun.

Ovulemi, who lives in Kawangware, recalls the mood as the political rivalries played out. 

"There was tension between those who supported Raila and those who supported Uhuru. But there were no protests that day and neither was there any police officer in sight," she said. 

Nothing could have prepared Ovulemi for what was coming her way when she left her house that evening. She met two women on her way to the market and stood for some small talk. 

Suddenly, the two women noted that they had heard a weird sound.  Ovulemi on her part said she felt something hit her. 

"When I looked down my abdomen, I noticed a hole on my dress and some blood had started oozing from my stomach," Ovulemi said. 

However, Ovulemi did not start feeling the pain immediately. In fact, she thought of walking some more to get food for her children. 

But she could not go far as she started feeling weak from her abdomen. Her two friends had to hold her and they rushed her to a nearby clinic. 

Upon arrival at the clinic, Ovulemi was informed that what had hit her was a bullet and she was immediately rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital. 

"They immediately took me in for surgery. Apparently, the bullet got into my intestines and was carried by blood and got close to my womb," she said. 

The bullet was successfully retrieved between her femur and pelvis bones and kept in case police would ever need it, as she was told. 

"The doctors told me I was a very lucky patient because the bullet never touched any of my vital organs like my kidneys, liver and heart," she said. 

But since her intestines were damaged by the bullet, doctors had to do reconstruction using plastic. 


Now, Ovulemi has some diet restrictions to preserve her reconstructed intestines. 

After the surgery, Ovulemi's entire body started swelling. When doctors wanted to perform a blood test on her, they could hardly locate her veins and were forced to draw blood from her jugular vein due to her swollen body. 

At first, no doctor was paying attention to her swollen body after her surgery, until one of the senior doctors insisted that something was not right. 

"He came and gave the other doctors a warning that if he came back the following morning and found I had not been taken back to the theatre, someone would get fired for negligence," Ovulemi said. 

She had to undergo surgery again as the poison from the bullet had not been completely washed and was making her body swell. 

At the time, Ovulemi's employer used to pay her full health insurance cover with NHIF, thus she hardly incurred any costs for her treatment. 

After her surgery, Ovulemi had to train all her muscles how to work again. 

"They would bring in a physiotherapist to train me how to walk again, hold items on my hands and even show me how to chew. My family was told to bring me chewing gum frequently," she said. 

A month after being shot by the stray bullet, she was finally discharged and allowed to continue recuperating from home. 

Her family sought a nurse who visited her at home three times a week to dress her wound and check up on her. 

"We had to pay her Sh2,000 for each visit, amounting to Sh6,000 every week. The nurse dressed my wound for two months before it fully healed," Ovulemi said. 

Additionally, Ovulemi said the bullet made her famous in Kawangware. 

At the time, news spread that a pregnant woman had been shot in the area. 

"The story spread so fast that I had been shot while pregnant. If you come here to Kawangware and ask for a woman that was shot while pregnant in 2017, you will be directed to me," she said. 

But Ovulemi was not pregnant at the time she was shot by the stray bullet. 

"It is true I had been pregnant but I miscarried in July and I never told my neighbours. Only close family was aware. The gunshot came in October," she said.


In February the following year, Ovulemi felt strong enough to return to work and she did. But she noticed that her boss now had a different attitude towards her. 

She worked as a cleaning lady in guest houses and was very hardworking. 

Ovulemi would kneel to scrub floors and leave them squeaky clean. She would climb on stools to clean windows that were high up. 

However, after her surgery, her body could not handle any strenuous activities for long. 

"My boss started saying I had become incompetent because there were times I would have to ask my colleagues to help me in some of my strenuous duties," she said. 

Her boss felt Ovulemi was having others do her work, yet she was the one to get paid. 

But she kept pushing despite the excruciating pain she would feel at the end of every working day. 

Fortunately, her boss let her work until August, when she was told to go on work leave. 

When her leave was over, Ovulemi's boss did not want her back at work. 

"When I asked her why she would not allow me back, she said I am a disabled person who cannot work. I felt rejected," she said. 

"I went to her office and she told me even if I went to report her, no one would accept a disabled person to work for them. I told her I was not a thief. That what happened to me was an accident and she had always known me to be a hardworking person."  

Ovulemi said her former boss really traumatised her, such that whenever she applies for a job and gets turned down, she imagines they also see her as a disabled person. 

The matter of her unlawful dismissal from work is currently in court.

Though she fears her injury may make potential employers reject her, Ovulemi recognised it is essential to inform them of her condition. 

"What if I get on a stool to clean a window then I fall and my stitches open up? My employer will be surprised," she said. 

Though she has gotten some understanding employers, she said her jobs never last long. 

"I once got employed and as usual, I have to inform my boss of my condition. The husband was very empathetic, but the wife felt her husband was hiring someone incompetent," she said. 

The woman would mistreat her and one day, she held a butcher knife at Ovulemi and threatened to use it on her. 

"She said she was not the one who shot me and there was no reason for me to bring my incompetency to her home," Ovulemi said. 

The situation got darker when her husband decided to leave them behind and start life anew. 

"Surprisingly, he also lives here in Kawangware, but he ensures we never cross paths. He never picks my calls either," she said. 

Opposition leader Raila Odinga visits market vendors at Kabiru Primary School in Kawangware
Opposition leader Raila Odinga visits market vendors at Kabiru Primary School in Kawangware
Image: FILE
What happened to me was an accident that has left me struggling since then. I just want a source of livelihood to help my children. Something to give me hope


Whenever Ovulemi needs help from her ex-husband, she has to use a different phone number and put the children on to plead with their father. 

Ovulemi's husband left in 2022 right after getting a job. Since then, the entire family has depended on Ovulemi as the breadwinner. 

"I have done everything to provide for my children. I have worked in construction sites. I have hawked rice in the streets. I have cleaned guest houses. I have worked in restaurants. There is nothing I have not tried," she said. 

But despite the effort, Ovulemi said there are times they would sleep hungry. 

She has also gone for many months without paying her rent. Ovulemi said from the menial cleaning jobs she does, she can only afford to feed her children, nothing more. 

She has slowly sold items from her house at a throwaway price to provide for her children.

"I have received so many letters from my children's school demanding that I pay their fees. If I had the money, I would. I want the best for my kids," she said.

Her eldest son, in his final year in high school, wanted to drop out to help Ovulemi with her menial jobs to make their lives better. 

Fortunately, she would hear none of it. Ovulemi urged her son to stay in school despite the tough situation in hopes their situation will get better. 

Amidst her troubles, she lost friends, while some relatives grew distant because none wanted to be associated with her and her endless problems.

Ovulemi said many stopped picking her calls as all they imagine is she wants to plead for support. 

"I was not going out to steal and I don't know why someone would shoot a bullet aimlessly," she says.

"What happened to me was an accident that has left me struggling since then. I just want a source of livelihood to help my children. Something to give me hope."

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