By Moses Kizito Buule
Uganda’s High Commissioner to Kenya Phibby Otaala Awere has appealed for immediate negotiations between the governments of Kenya and Uganda over an overwhelming number of Ugandan girls in Kenya’s detention places after failing to reach their Middle East and other Arab world destinations.
Otaala said the embassy is overwhelmed by cases of Ugandans stranded in Nairobi after being abandoned by agents who take them with promises of flying them to Arab nations for greener pastures.
The envoy said that on average, she receives fifteen girls daily in her Nairobi office seeking either legal assistance in courts where they are produced for vagrancy and illegal entry, medical treatment or money for subsistence, adding, “some of these girls who are rescued by police are in a sorry state, emaciated, sick, underfed and with their bodies infested by lice”.
Awere was on Tuesday addressing participants at the opening of a three-day Kenya-Uganda Joint Border Commissioners’ (JBC) meeting held at Ridar Hotel Seeta, to pave way for continued mutual co-operation of the two governments in security and development issues especially along the border.
JBC which brings together stakeholders from either side of the border, is a forum for enhanced co-operation between Kenya and Uganda in issues including but not limited to education, agriculture, security, health, cross-border trade and a host of others.
The Tuesday meeting was attended by Regional Commissioners, officials from the Presidents’ offices of both countries, and executives from ministries and government bodies.
Giving an account of the magnitude of human trafficking, the high commissioner lamented that unfortunately, these girls’ relatives remain ignorant of their children’s ordeal, thinking they have safely reached Arab countries and landed jobs, adding however that when the traffickers fail to get people willing to take on the girls immediately, they abandon them in Nairobi slums without giving them their passports back.
She said that when they are arraigned in courts, they need money to engage advocates which money the embassy does not have, making it doubly painful to her that she cannot help these innocent girls.
Ambassador Otaala appealed to parents to drop the erroneous belief that good jobs are only available abroad, and appealed to government to do all it takes to educate parents that there is a lot of business that these girls can get into without necessarily going abroad where they are subjected to dehumanizing treatment.
The Kenyan Regional Commissioner for Rift Valley Mongo Chimwaga concurred with the envoy, and disclosed that at Jommo Kenyatta International Airport, they have set provisions for scrutinizing Ugandans exiting through it, adding that in many cases, trafficked girls have documents endorsed with fake stamps.
Commissioner Chimwaga said that the Kenyan government has stepped up use of Interpol as a security measure to check on the vice which has attracted many Ugandan girls, he said.
Opening the meeting, the State minister for Ethics and Integrity Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo commended the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) for its efforts in curbing cross-border cattle rustling by totally disarming the Karimojong, and appealed to the Kenyan government to follow a similar path by disarming the Turkana.
“I am now a happy man because we no longer see Karimojong youths, out of curiosity, shooting at passing vehicles at liberty, just to find out whether their guns can stop a moving vehicle”, Lokodo said.
And the Special Presidential Assistant Haji Mohammed Sadiq Mayanja decried the unchecked exodus of Ugandan girls in the border districts to Kenya on their way to the Arab world in search of better paying jobs.
“All would be okay if they were following the known immigration laws, but they are lured into the unknown world by unscrupulous people who later abandon them on failure to successfully get them across”, Mayanja noted.
He disclosed that when he went for a burial in Busia, he was amazed to be told that youths in the district are worried that they are running short of girls to marry, and that they may in future have to look for spouses from outside their home area.