Joseph Kony is a Criminal, But Uganda President Museveni Has Allowed Human Trafficking on His Watch

Last week, Eyewitness News reported human trafficking was on the rise in Uganda. Women are lured into the prospect of foreign jobs and end up in forced labor and prostitution. The report alleged that the government agency Uganda Veterans Development Limited (UVDL) was involved in this scandal and procured employment where women were raped, beaten, and tortured by their employers. To address this issue, MP Elijah Okupa proposed a petition to hold such government companies accountable, but more needs to be done.

Parliament needs to initiate awareness campaigns about the potential of companies using overseas work to lure women into human trafficking. This awareness would hold the government accountable to hopefully oust responsible officials and replace them with a stricter anti-human trafficking regime.

The major cause of increased trafficking is corruption by President Museveni. At the time these government companies were created, presidential elections were beginning and candidates were campaigning. Dictator Yoweri Museveni was losing because of the poor economy, and he needed to improve the economy to win “reelection.”

In order to win “reelection,” Museveni could not afford to lose his military service companies. According to a member of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement party, Retired Colonel Chris Mudoola, the UVDL chairman, these service companies were “a sign of confidence in local professionals and improved business relations between the two countries.”

But many of these service companies committed rape, torture, and beatings against female employees, often holding them captive and selling them into slavery. As a Ugandan owned company, the government was responsible for paying death and disability compensation and repatriation and monitoring and shutting down businesses that committed human rights abuses under Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Ugandan Migrant Workers Abroad, No. 62.

However, this would have cost the government too much money, which would have made Museveni look as though his economic policy had failed even more. Ugandans would no longer afford land and cattle. The government would also lose $914m (about sh2.102 trillion) of remittances from Ugandans working abroad (numbers based on 2010 earnings).

Museveni continued to allow human trafficking companies operate in Uganda. After UVDL had been shut down, the government gave the order to reopen the company.

His hunger for power caused human trafficking. Only by curtailing his hunger could much of the human trafficking problem be alleviated. An awareness program would address Museveni’s hunger for power and help end human trafficking. Not only would this program alert women to the dangers of overseas work, but it would spotlight Museveni’s corruption. In doing so, Ugandans would gain the chance to oust him and possibly end the crime of human trafficking.

Photo Credit: dispatch_ug

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Jacinda Chan

Jacinda graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a dual bachelor's degree in rhetoric and political science. She is currently pursuing a masters in international criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth. She is fluent in German. Since then, she has done various research and writing internships covering Turkish politics at the Diplomatic Courier, writing reports on legal systems in the Middle East, and researching the entire human rights history of Iran and Egypt. At the Levin Institute, she wrote news analysis about human rights in Latin America.

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