Human rights activists in Uganda yesterday appealed to the International Human Rights Commission to intervene and force Zimbabwe and South African governments to release and deport Ugandans being held in the various prisons in the countries.
Speaking during a press briefing in Kampala, the executive director for Human Rights Defenders, Mr Gideon Tugume, said there are many Ugandans being held in prisons in the two countries and yet they have never been taken to court.
“There are about 5,800 Ugandans held in prisons of both countries. More than 500 Ugandan prisoners have been identified in South Africa (mainly in Pretoria and Johannesburg) and more than 5,000 in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Tugume.
He added that most of them are held at Khani Prison, Chikurubi Maximum Prison, Kami Prison and Gwanda Prisons, all in Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, most Ugandans are held at Harare Central Prison. “Some of these people that are imprisoned in these countries are not even criminals, they are taken to after being promised jobs especially by some companies that have been advertising job opportunities for unemployed people who want to work out there” said Mr Tugume.
He added that many Ugandans are being trafficked to different countries even outside Africa and when they are held for illegal entry into the countries, those who cannot afford to bribe their way out remain under in custody.
The prisoners are reportedly living in poor conditions as they are tortured, beaten, and survive on just one meal per day and luck enough facilities to retain all of them and yet some of the women in these prisons are even raped.
However, Foreign Affairs state minister Okello Oryem, when contacted by the Daily Monitor, accused the activists of being busy bodies that want to be seen working by their donors. He instead said such complaints should be reported to the Ugandan embassies in the respective countries. “I am not dismissing the reports but their approach is wrong. They should have contacted me or the other Foreign Affairs ministers. We are ready to listen and help them,” Mr Oryem said.