The Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Norbert Mao has said it is high time all stakeholders joined forces to ensure an end to human trafficking in Uganda.
“We must send a clear message to the world that trafficking in Ugandan children is a risky business. For instance can you carry marijuana to China? Everybody will know you have messed with the Chinese in relation to rugs and will call your mother’s name in vain. In Uganda we have only sent a message in regard to terrorism and to this, terrorists know you can’t mess up with Uganda. If you try to practice terrorism in Uganda, you will regret. The same should be done to human traffickers,” Mao said.
The minister was speaking during the second national dialogue on ending child trafficking in Uganda organized by Terre des Hommes, Dwelling Places, the Uganda Child rights NGO network (UCRNN) and Uganda Coalition against Trafficking in Persons at Kampala Serena Hotel on Thursday.
The national dialogue was held under the theme; “Taking stock of the child trafficking response; Has justice prevailed?”
Mao noted that it is high time all stakeholders joined efforts to deal with human trafficking by getting involved other than only raising concern.
“I thank you for moving from being merely concerned and become involved. The world is not changed by concerned people but by involved people. This dialogue is a step forward. Instead of cursing darkness, you are lighting candles .It is involved people who make a difference. Obviously NGOs alone will not solve the problem. We need to be able to coordinate.”
According to the minister, children need to enjoy their rights by being free from trafficking.
“We need to name the companies involved in trafficking. We must be very tough on trafficking in children. We need to send a clear message that we are tough on human trafficking. Our country should start being respected. Other countries might be rich and have their oil but these are our children and we must put the feet down on trafficking,” Mao said.
“Trafficking a Ugandan child is serious crime and you will regret and we shall start blocking the companies involved in trafficking. We have got to draw lines when it comes to child trafficking in Uganda.”
James Ayesiga, the Country Manager for Terre des Hommes said the problem is big and needs concerted efforts.
“We have intercepted, rehabilitated and resettled 861 children. We also rescued 37 girls that we rescued from Nairobi,”Ayesiga said.
The Terre des Hommes Country Manager questioned how the children are trafficked from villages, parishes and sub-counties without local governments realising that the children are missing.
He noted there is need to address issues like hunger especially in Karamoja which make it easy for children to be trafficked from the area as well as supporting the implementation of district ordinances against child trafficking and creation of jobs for youths.
According to data from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in Uganda 717 cases of child trafficking were registered between January 2020 and June 2022.
The spokesperson of the office of the DPP, Jacqueline Okui however noted they have made some progress in getting convictions for human traffickers.
“In the last year we managed to get over 30 convictions in trafficking in persons cases, 1600 victims were identified and 2000 suspects identified,”Okui said.