19 June 2017

Uganda: Govt Lacks Capacity to Stop Human Trafficking, Top Officials Warn

Government seems unable to stop the escalation of human trafficking, according to several high-ranking officials.

This was revealed during a two-day human trafficking conference on June 13-14 at the Sheraton hotel. It attracted representatives from the ministries of Gender, Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs together with officials from the judiciary and police, who decried the unfavourable conditions they face while fighting human trafficking.

Human trafficking involves trade in humans, most commonly for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation. Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine, said many judicial officials are not familiar with human trafficking or the form it takes.

"Suffice it to say that judicial officers may be contributing to the vice consciously or otherwise. Even then that gives no credit to us as an institution meant to protect those children," he said.

He urged judicial officers to familiarise themselves with issues of adjudication, prosecution and prevention of trafficking cases to improve Uganda's justice response to the vice.

Mike Chibita, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), noted that his docket lacks funds, trained manpower and technical capacity to collect evidence in cases as complex as human trafficking.

BLAME GAME

During presentations, some government departments and minis- tries blamed one another for not doing enough to stop the vice. Under scrutiny was the ministry of Gender, which was faulted for offering licenses to labour-exporting companies without certifying their credibility and capacity to monitor workers.

However, the ministry's assistant commissioner for development strategies, Wilson Turyasima, said they do critical scrutiny of a company before issuing a licence.

To receive a licence, a company must have a share capital of Shs 50 million with an extra Shs 10 million on their bank account on top of a Shs 50 million bank guarantee.

Turyasima, however, said they are let down in areas of human knowledge.

"We also need to revise the laws so we can come to terms with the Prevention of trafficking in Persons Act 2009," he said.

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE?

In 2009, parliament passed the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act to stop human trafficking. An anti-human trafficking taskforce was also set up under the internal affairs ministry.

However, Moses Binoga, the coordinator of the task force, said the taskforce has no formal legal powers to enforce its recommendations and neither can it impose sanctions against those who fail to fulfil or implement them.

"With due respect to the judiciary, there has been delayed prosecution processes and victims have been threatened or evidence interfered with," he said. "These cases are not the normal ones where we want to get the bad guys, these require us to look after victims."

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