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.