Saturday, June 23, 2007

Uganda child slave trade on the rise

Ugandan police have announced a probe into child trafficking from orphanages. Police Inspector General Kale Kayihura made the announcement during a conference on human trafficking in East Africa. Meanwhile fellow Ugandan Moses Okello, of the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University, told the BBC that a spate of recent cases showed the scale child trafficking in Uganda "could get out of hand". The conference is hoping to develop an action plan to address the lack of information on the problem and find ways to curb it

The discussions are occurring at the “First Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Conference in Eastern Africa” at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala. Held for three days between 20 and 22 June, the conference was organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). UNODC was established in 1997 and has approximately 500 staff members worldwide. Headquartered in Vienna, it has 20 field offices as well as liaison offices in New York and Brussels. UNODC relies on voluntary contributions, mainly from governments, for 90 per cent of its budget. UNDOC mandate is to assist Member States in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism.

However human trafficking is a $32b global industry that is on a similar scale to the drug and arms trafficking industry. UNODC launched the trafficking conference on 20 June with a press conference. UNODC stated that post-conflict societies, such as Uganda appear to be particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. The problems caused by war means that often the infrastructure is not in place to protect the most vulnerable members of society. It also creates an environment ripe for organised criminal organisations, which seek to exploit illegal markets.

The conference brought together authorities from the eleven countries of the Eastern African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) region. A subsidiary of Interpol, the 11 member EAPCCO (Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda) was founded in Kampala in 1998 and is now based in Nairobi. The major seven types of crimes investigated by EAPCCO are firearms, narcotic drugs, motor vehicle theft, economic crime and corruption, terrorism, environmental crime and cattle rustling.

However EAPCCO also recognises human trafficking as a major problem. Interpol has been involved in the investigation of offences against children since 1989. It has a specialist group on crimes against children which focuses on four different arenas; commercial exploitation and trafficking; sex offenders; serious violent crimes against children and child pornography. Operationally, it supports member states in carrying out large operations investigating the commercial exploitation of children.

The Kampala conference was told that Asian children mainly from India, Pakistan and China are being trafficked into Uganda. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has released a rapid assessment report on trafficking of children in Uganda. The ILO said the Asian children are trafficked into Uganda disguised as cultural dancers on short- term visits while some Somalis are brought in as refugees. ILO said the trade was organised by “well coordinated networks of individuals and groups” across all stratas of society including pimps, employment bureaus, churches, transport agents, NGOs, peers, and fishermen.

The ILO findings were corroborated by Ugandan Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura. Kayihura said the country was a transit route in the multi-billion dollar human trafficking trade. He said Police are investigating two local orphanages involved in child trafficking. He also said that although the trade looks un-coordinated because of the small numbers moved at a given time, there is a huge worldwide network behind it.

Jeffrey Avina, director for operations at UNODC, told the conference that child trafficking was on the rise in East Africa. Avina cited the conflict in northern Uganda, where Lord's Resistance Army rebels have been widely accused of abducting thousands of children for over two decades which made the country stand out as the state worst affected by trafficking in eastern Africa. 30,000 rebel-recruited children have ended up in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Boys end up working in commercial farms, mines and quarries and girls are forced into prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. “This is not about individuals; we are talking about organised crime," said Avina.

Trafficking in humans is outlawed under the UN Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons, which has been in effect since December 2003. Covered under the protocols are "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation". Like the law itself, human trafficking is a global issue that remains little understood.


Ethics in Africa said...

Ex-Museveni Maid Sues Whitaker

The Monitor (Kampala)
6 July 2007
Posted to the web 5 July 2007

By Grace Matsiko

An American adviser to the NRM government on trade and investment has lost a preliminary appeal in a U.S. court to dismiss a fraud case filed against her by her Ugandan housemaid.

Ms Idah Zirintusa, a former State House employee, sued Ms Rosa Whitaker in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for fraud, unjust enrichment, and illegal interference with her earlier contract with State House.

Ms Zirintusa alleges in court papers that Ms Whitaker entered into a three-year oral employment contract with her promising four times the wage she earned in Uganda, full tuition at an American college, food, and shelter.

It is further alleged that Ms Whitaker promised Ms Zirintusa to make separate payments to support her family in Uganda.

In the pleadings, a copy of which Daily Monitor has obtained, Ms Zirintusa further says that Ms Whitaker violated various provisions of the US Fair Labour Standards Act, D.C. Payment and Collection of Wages Law, and D.C. Minimum Wage Act by failing to pay her the minimum wage and overtime fee to which she was entitled for the domestic services she provided Ms Whitaker and her friend Ms Pauline Harris.

Ms Whitaker worked as the assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa under President Bill Clinton, and during the early years of Mr George W. Bush's presidency.

In that job, she "developed and implemented the African Growth and Opportunity Act and other bilateral and multilateral trade policy initiatives towards Africa".

When she left the trade representative's office, Ms Whitaker founded The Whitaker Group, a consultancy firm that advises several African countries, including Uganda, on international business issues.

The Whitaker Group officials were recently in Uganda pushing for increased production of organic cotton to make apparel for the American market.

In her defence, Ms Whitaker argues that Ms Zirintusa could not sustain her claims because she was not legally permitted to work in the United States.

She also argues that her accuser is not entitled to overtime pay under either federal or Washington D.C. law because Ms Zirintusa lived in her employer's home - in this case Ms Whitaker's home.

Ms Whitaker bases her defence in part on the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which makes it illegal for aliens to sue for breach of contract. In its ruling, however, the judge allowed Ms Zirintusa to proceed with the suit.

The court stated that nothing in IRCA prohibits undocumented workers from asserting their labour rights under the US Fair Labor Standards Act.

The court also ruled that Ms Whitaker acted fraudulently when she "made material misstatements of fact" in January 2003, September 2003, and July 2004.

The court found that Ms Whitaker falsely promised Ms Zirintusa that if she accepted her offer of employment, the American lobbyist would provide payments for the care and support of the accuser's family in Uganda.

According to the court's ruling, Ms Whitaker made these representations knowing they were false and Ms Zirintusa reasonably relied on the misstatements to sell her possessions at a significant loss and leave her family in Uganda to work for Ms Whitaker in the United States.

"The Court finds that these facts are sufficient to overcome a motion for judgment on the pleadings," reads part of the January 3, 2007 ruling.

Ms Zirintusa, who once worked as a catering officer at State House Nakasero, arrived in the United States on August 18, 2004 on a student visa.

On the issue of unjust enrichment, the court held that Ms Zirintusa proved that Ms Harris had received a benefit at Ms Zirintusa's expense by accepting domestic services without paying for those services.

Ms Zirintusa, who still lives in the United States, is now demanding full compensation for the value of the services rendered.

The court is yet to set a date to hear the Ugandan's compensation claims against Ms Whitaker. Efforts to reach both women for further comment were unsuccessful.

President Museveni's press secretary said he was not aware of the case. "If it is true that there was an employment agreement," Mr Tamale Mirundi said, "then that lady has a right to sue."

Anonymous said...

Since Rosa Whitaker sucked out USD $1.2 Million in fees out of Uaganda, she could have easily paid a few pocket change to the worker. But greed knows no bounds!