Africa

Mafia buys children from some parents in Uganda to use them as beggars

Officials say, traffickers visit Karamoja region to buy children from poor parents and then force them into begging on streets

Godfrey Olukya   | 15.06.2022
Mafia buys children from some parents in Uganda to use them as beggars File Photo

KAMPALA, Uganda

Despite possessing rich gold and uranium reserves beneath the soil, the Karamoja region in the northeast of Uganda reels under extreme poverty, with many of its residents reportedly selling their children to the mafia, who force them into begging.

Yusuf Tuke, a security officer in Karamoja said some people involved in child trafficking come to this region and buy children from poor parents.

“They pay parents money that they can pay and then take their children,” he said.

Delilah Aisu, the communications officer of an NGO, Save the Street Children Uganda, said his organization has rounded up 1,000 children from the streets of Kampala and other cities, who had been sold by their parents.

“It is appalling that some parents sell their children so that they are used to begging,” he said.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Jack Masurubu, Kampala’s city council law enforcement officer, said there is an organized racket to engage children of poor residents of Karamoja into begging on the streets of the Ugandan capital.

“It is common to see very young children begging on the streets of Kampala. Those in charge of them keep a small distance away and immediately some of the children are given money by a sympathizer, they hurriedly come and get it from them,” he said.

Child rights activist Stella Namuddu said several girls over 14 years of age are also brought from Karamoja and trafficked to Kenya to work as sex workers.

“Some time back dozens of Karamojong girls were rounded up in Kenya and brought back to Uganda,” she said.

Recently Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja’s office arranged a national dialogue with child rights groups and lawyers to put an end to child trafficking.


Lawmaker seeks strategy

During the meeting lawmakers from the Karamoja region sought a strategy to ensure there is compulsory free education for all Karamojong children for at least 10 years to reduce child trafficking and early marriages.

She said they take children to rehabilitation centers and later take them to schools.

Frank Mugabi, spokesman of the Gender and Social Service Ministry, said the government has largely put a stop to the trafficking of children.

“There was a time when selling and buying children in Karamoja was being done in the open. But after the government recently fought hard against it and even arrested some parents involved, nowadays it is done clandestinely,” he said.

He said the government has also appealed to people not to give alms to children on the streets. Mugabi said the idea behind this measure was to discourage their handlers.

“We have programs meant to get rid of problems that force the children to beg on the streets. One of them is to empower the Karamajong parents economically so that they stop looking at selling their children as a source of income,” said Mugabi.

According to Uganda’s Energy Ministry, Karamoja, which is 470 kilometers (292 miles) east of the capital Kampala, is endowed with a vast amount of minerals.

A survey conducted in 2011 found that the region is sitting on reserves of 50 minerals including gold, limestone, uranium marble, graphite, gypsum, iron, wolfram, nickel, copper, cobalt, tin, and diamonds among others.

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