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Uganda orphans on sale abroad

Police chief Kale Kayihura and Jeffrey Avina at a conference on human trafficking yesterday

By Joyce Namutebi

HUMAN trafficking is a lucrative business in Uganda, the Great Lakes region and elsewhere, causing concern to the governments and security agencies.

Two orphanages in Uganda are being investigated in connection to the scam, the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, said yesterday.

Kayihura was speaking at the first regional conference on anti-human trafficking in Eastern Africa at the Speke Resort Munyonyo. He added that he had received a call that morning about an orphanage suspected to be involved in trafficking of orphans outside the country.

Kayihura, who later addressed a press conference, said he had instructed the Police to investigate the orphanage.

The Police are also investigating another orphanage on Gayaza Road which allegedly collects children, especially girls, who are sexually abused.

The director of operations of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Jeffrey Avina, explained that human trafficking was a lucrative business that fetches $32b a year. He added that 2.5 million people are trafficked in 127 countries annually.

“Uganda is considered a source, transit route as well as a destination for children being trafficked from the Great Lakes countries,” state minister for internal affairs, Matia Kasaija, said while opening the conference.

“While there is limited statistics on human trafficking in Uganda, the manifestation of the problem has been observed and reported to the authorities, thus causing great concern to the Government and the people of Uganda.”

Representatives from 11 member states of the Eastern African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation namely Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, the Seychelles, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia are attending the conference that ends tomorrow.

The minister noted that human trafficking in Africa affects mainly women and children who are often subjected to prostitution and forced labour. He cited Karamoja as one area where girls are exploited and sexually abused.

He attributed the crime to poverty, gender inequality, lack of birth registers, exploitative sex, cheap labour and armed conflicts.

He said the ministry had been alerted to the increasing number of passport applications for fostered children, mostly by foreigners on short- term visits.

“Such foster orders issued to foreigners on temporary immigration facilities undermine the capacity of the law enforcement to monitor the welfare of the fostered children living abroad,” he said.

The minister cited an such example of a European woman who went to his office seeking a passport for a child whom she wanted to go back with. “I was very suspicious and I called for a meeting of all people involved in the affairs of children. I was told that these things are going on,” Kasaija said. The woman was refused to take the child.

The minister also spoke about the abduction of chidren by rebels. He said about 30,000 girls and boys had been abducted and recruited into rebel forces in Uganda in the last 20 years. Some of the abducted children ended up in Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, the DR Congo, the Middle East, Europe and America, he stated.

Richard Danziger of the International Organisation for Migration argued that it was not possible to point out a single destination but warned against trafficking within the countries.

One could find Colombians in Hong Kong, Burundians in the UK and Congolese in Uganda, he explained.

To address the problem of child trafficking, the minister urged the respective governments to tighten adoption procedures, amend children’s laws and design common guidelines on adoption of children in the region.

As a way of addressing the problem, the minister added that every Ugandan would have a national ID by the end of next financial year.

The conference funded by Norway and Sweden is meant to raise awareness and develop a regional action plan to combat human trafficking.

2007 Jun 20