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One year ago a group of gunmen in Burundi was hired to kill a woman visiting from Australia. But the hit did not go as planned, leaving her with a chance to turn the tables on the man who wanted her dead.
"I felt like somebody who had risen again," says Noela Rukundo.
She was supposed to be dead. The hired killers had been paid. They had even explained how they would dispose of the body.
But now, waiting outside her house for the last of the mourners to leave, she was ready to face down the man who had put out a contract for her murder.
"When I get out of the car, he saw me straight away. He put his hands on his head and said, 'Is it my eyes? Is it a ghost?'"
"Surprise! I'm still alive!" she replied.
Noela's ordeal began five days earlier, and 7,500 miles away in her native Burundi. She had returned to Africa from her home in Melbourne, Australia, to attend her stepmother's funeral.
"I had lost the last person who I call 'mother'," she says. "It was very painful. I was so stressed."
By early evening Noela had retreated to her hotel room. As she lay dozing in the stifling city heat of Bujumbura, her phone rang. It was a call from Australia - from Balenga Kalala, her husband and father to her three youngest children.
"He says he'd been trying to get me for the whole day," Noela says. "I said I was going to bed. He told me, 'To bed? Why are you sleeping so early?'
"I say, 'I'm not feeling happy'. And he asks me, 'How's the weather? Is it very, very hot?' He told me to go outside for fresh air."
Noela took his advice.
"I didn't think anything. I just thought that he cared about me, that he was worried about me."
But moments after stepping outside the hotel compound, Noela found herself in danger.
"I opened the gate and I saw a man coming towards me. Then he pointed the gun on me.
"He just told me, 'Don't scream. If you start screaming, I will shoot you. They're going to catch me, but you? You will already be dead.'
"So, I did exactly what he told me."
The gunman motioned Noela towards a waiting car.
"I was sitting between two men. One had a small gun, one had a long gun. And the men say to the driver, 'Pass us a scarf.' Then they cover my face.
"After that, I didn't say anything. They just said to the driver, 'Let's go.'
"I was taken somewhere, 30 to 40 minutes, then I hear the car stop."
Noela was pushed inside a building and tied to a chair.
"One of the kidnappers told his friend, 'Go call the boss.' I can hear doors open but I didn't know if their boss was in a room or if he came from outside.
"They ask me, 'What did you do to this man? Why has this man asked us to kill you?' And then I tell them, 'Which man? Because I don't have any problem with anybody.' They say, 'Your husband!' I say, 'My husband can't kill me, you are lying!' And then they slap me.
"After that the boss says, 'You are very stupid, you are fool. Let me call who has paid us to kill you.'"
The gang's leader made the call.
"We already have her," he triumphantly told his paymaster.
The phone was put on loudspeaker for Noela to hear the reply.
Her husband's voice said: "Kill her."
Just hours earlier, the same voice had consoled her over the death of her stepmother and urged her to take fresh air outside the hotel. Now her husband Balenga Kalala had condemned her to death.
"I heard his voice. I heard him. I felt like my head was going to blow up.
"Then they described for him where they were going to chuck the body."
At that, Noela says she passed out.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Balenga Kalala had arrived in Australia in 2004 as a refugee, after fleeing a rebel army that had rampaged through his village, killing his wife and young son.
Settling in Melbourne, he soon found steady employment, first in a seafood processing factory and then in a warehouse as a forklift operator.
"He could already speak English," recalls Noela, who also arrived in Australia in 2004. "My social worker was his social worker, and they used him to translate Swahili."
The two fell in love. They set up home in the Kings Park suburb of the city. Noela had five children from a previous relationship and went on to have three more with Kalala.
"I knew he was a violent man," admits Noela. "But I didn't believe he can kill me. I loved this man with all my heart!
"I give him, beautiful and handsome, two boys and one girl. So I don't know why he choose to kill me."
As the gang's leader ended the call to Kalala, Noela was coming round.
"I said to myself, I was already dead. Nothing I can do can save me.
"But he looks at me and then he says, 'We're not going to kill you. We don't kill women and children.'
"He told me I'd been stupid because my husband paid them the deposit in November. And when I went to Africa it was January. He asked me, 'How stupid can you be, from November, you can't see that something is wrong?'"
He might have been a hit-man with principles, but the gang's leader still took the opportunity to extort more money from Kalala. He called him back and informed him that the fee for the murder had increased. He wanted a further 3,400 Australian dollars (£1,700) to finish the job.
Back at the hotel, Noela's brother was getting worried about her disappearance. He called Kalala in Australia to ask for $545 to pay the police to open an investigation - Kalala feigned concern and duly wired the money.
After two days in captivity, Noela was freed.
"'We give you 80 hours to leave this country,'" Noela says the gang told her. "'Your husband is serious. Maybe we can spare your life, but other people, they're not going to do the same thing. If God helps you, you'll get to Australia.'"
Before leaving Noela by the side of a road, the gang handed her the evidence they hoped would incriminate Kalala - a memory card containing recorded phone conversations of him discussing the murder and receipts for the Western Union money transfers.
We just want you to go back, to tell other stupid women like you what happened," the gang told Noela as they parted. "You must learn something: you people get a chance to go overseas for a better life. But the money you are earning, the money the government gives to you, you use it for killing each other!"
Noela immediately began planning her return to Australia. She called the pastor of her church in Melbourne, Dassano Harruno Nantogmah, and requested his help.
"'It was in the middle of the night. I says, 'It's me, I'm still alive, don't tell anybody.' He says, 'Noela, I don't believe it. Balenga can't kill someone!' And I said, 'Pastor, believe me!'"
Three days later, on the evening of 22 February 2015, Noela was back in Melbourne.
By now, Kalala had informed the community that his wife had died in a tragic accident. He had spent the day hosting a steady stream of well-wishers, many of whom donated money.
"It was around 7.30pm," Noela says. "He was in front of the house. People had been inside mourning with him and he was escorting a group of them into a car."
It was as they drove away that Noela sprang her surprise.
"I was stood just looking at him. He was scared, he didn't believe it. Then he starts walking towards me, slowly, like he was walking on broken glass.
"He kept talking to himself and when he reached me, he touched me on the shoulder. He jumped.
"He did it again. He jumped. Then he said, 'Noela, is it you?'… Then he start screaming, 'I'm sorry for everything.'"
Noela called the police who ordered Kalala off the premises and later obtained a court order against him. Days later, the police instructed Noela to call Kalala. Kalala made a full confession to his wife, captured on tape, begging for her forgiveness and revealing why he had ordered the murder.
"He say he wanted to kill me because he was jealous," says Noela. "He think that I wanted to leave him for another man."
She rejects the accusation.
In a police interview, Kalala denied any involvement in the plot. "The pretence," wrote the judge at his trial in December, "lasted for hours." But when confronted with the recording of his telephone conversation with Noela and the evidence she brought back from Burundi he started to cry.
Kalala was still unable to offer any explanation for his actions, suggesting only that "sometimes [the] devil can come into someone to do something but after they do it, they start thinking, 'Why I did that thing?'"
On 11 December last year, in court in Melbourne, after pleading guilty to incitement to murder, Kalala was sentenced to nine years in prison.
"His voice always comes in the night - 'Kill her, kill her,'" says Noela of the nightmares that now plague her. "Every night, I see what was happening in those two days with the kidnappers."
Ostracised by many in Melbourne's African community, some of whom blame her for Kalala's conviction, Noela sees a difficult future for her and her eight children.
"But I will stand up like a strong woman," she says.
"My situation, my past life? That is gone. I'm starting a new life now."
Oh, how I wish
The Bible was written by a Black man,
An African or some coloured people
Then they would have been divinely inspired
To be the heralds of the Creator's will,
Our creator's grand plan, His ways,
The divine rules of the ultimate maker
Who has always been
Blacks would have been the scribes
And the Dark Continent the cradle
Of improved Judaism
Or maybe it was modernised
What then would the world's response have been
Could the dark arena have emitted light
To all the universe
Wonder is the response
Perhaps the heathens would have been Israelites
No! Forget not,
That time is too remote
Well, they were god-open but God-remote
Africa knew nothing and could not document
What about the Pharaoh's land?
Leave that one
What if Africa is freed of the double bind
From the rulers of our rulers,
From the monster rulers of the states,
The auto-images of the fiend.
The Bible may have been written by Africans.
Music has never been for fun only. That’s why we call it ‘Music Business’ and that is one good reason I don’t render services for musicians for free. It is business and its has rules!
In Music Business, commercial success is the ultimate. Every musician in Ghana definitely wants a break through. It could be a single record or an album. There are few things I know musicians in Ghana are aware of but deliberately relegate to the background and still expect to be talk of the town. How you package yourself will determine how long you will be relevant in the music industry.
I have paid attention to some of our musicians speak on both radio and television and it feels terrible. Most of them find it difficult to express themselves. Expressing one’s self is a big deal. If you know how to express yourself publicly, you can communicate well even with gestures. Some musicians are just refusing to learn the English language and those who mostly grant interviews in any of the local languages also face a lot of problems. The truth is that English is the official language of Ghana and it is expedient that any inhabitant or citizen of Ghana learns it to enable them communicate with ease.
The next point is that musicians in Ghana have no respect for those who promote their music and brand – from radio presenters, disc jockeys, promoters, bloggers etc. They treat them like their services are ancillary. Meanwhile, these people are the life of the craft. Aside the fact that the promoters need the musician’s songs and video as content, the musicians also need those platforms to reach out to their fans and potential fans. Just like any other business there is the need to keep strong business tide that binds both sides.
Good looks and distinguished identity will bring in endorsement deals too. Don’t forget that too.
In this era where sales of compact discs has drastically gone down, free downloads and striving for a hit song has become the order of the day. But the cash flows more from the stage. Some of our musicians have good songs yet they have appalling stage craft. You will lose interest in their brand after watching some of them perform.
I’ve spent time with some artiste backstage during major events in Ghana and the atmosphere has always not been nice. Besides, our musicians hardly spend time trying to link up with other acts beyond their jurisdiction. It is necessary – not just for collaboration but to share ideas. Music is a global trade. If we really want to go beyond our immediate boundaries, then we need to network with other acts elsewhere.
Ghanaian musicians are making money. To some extent, yes, they are not lacking. We always see them riding in luxurious automobiles, great mansions, beautiful ‘chicks’ and better clothes that cost thousands of Ghana cedis. So why can’t they employ the services of a Public Relations experts or publicists? Not every blogger is a public relations expert. You need a publicist to communicate to the public on your behalf and also network with all the media outlets that matters on your behalf. These are professionals you can hire to execute a deal. Most musicians take good initiatives that the public don’t know about. Others have their image tarnished because there was nobody to do the damage control.
Recently a Ghanaian blog released a list of Ghanaian artistes who are very interactive on the social media. It looks good but more can be done. Most artistes just don’t know how to get interactive with the fans.
One thing you should not forget is that the social media administrator cannot do all. You frequently need to track your fan base to know where to push in a lot of energy. Musicians and their management should stop treating these partners like their effort is an option. They play instrumental roles in their career development and success.
Let’s do the best we can so the music craft will gain massive recognition and patronage both in Ghana and on the international market. It doesn’t come on a silver platter.
Quata is really back to stay. His new singles are receiving massive airplay both in Ghana and abroad due to the number of request being received by presenters. "Ohia", which is a palm wine hi-life, is there to motivate the poor in society whilst "Wind N go low" is a massive dance tune. This is an indication that most of the listeners are missing his thong twisting rap style. We welcome the “King” back into the game.
Fitness is becoming more and more fashionable, with various high street stores launching their own sportswear collections. Before, we usually hit the high street looking for the latest fashion trends, but with an influx of sportswear collections, today our favorite fashion brands are ideal to pick up a high tech, highly responsive piece of gym kit.
Purchasing a new gym outfit can be great motivation, encouraging us to get stuck in with out workout. When we lack motivation to go to the gym, what better to do then buy a new funky sports bra or bright pair of trainers that we can’t wait to show off to our fellow gym go-ers.
Sportswear used to be pretty basic, in plain designs and colours. However, the high street is now full of fun and bold sportswear for us to get our hands on. From the gorgeous selection from Missgui
With just a few days to go until Halloween, our thoughts are turned to Halloween make-up. A great excuse to get creative and experiment, Halloween is a truly fantastic opportunity to create unusual and impressive looks, using a multitude of methods, products and tools.
The internet and social media platforms are ideal to gather inspiration from, and there are some truly spectacular examples of what can be done with make-up for Halloween out there. We’ve selected our favourite looks for Halloween in 2015…
Halloween doesn’t have to mean uneasy on the eye. A popular trend to emerge is the half and half look, with an area of the face made up to look creepy and the other half prettified making the look a lit