Gangs of street children invade Iganga municipality

Wednesday July 10 2019

Speaking out. Street children sleep on a

Speaking out. Street children sleep on a verandah of a building in Iganga Town. PHOTO BY YAZID YOLISIGIRA 

By YAZID YOLISIGIRA

It is midnight on a cold Saturday, this reporter makes a stopover to buy some foodstuffs near Shivans Pub on Main Street in Iganga Town.
A group of street children are seen lying on the veranda, with some covering themselves with polythene bags. They are shortly joined by others.
The about 30 children of between eight and 15 years claim they ran away from their respective homes after being tortured by their parents and guardians.
One of them, a nine-year-old boy, who reportedly travelled with his father from Nankoma Village in Bugiri District last year, says he was drawn to the street after his parent abandoned him in Iganga Town.
“My mother died and father decided to move with me to Iganga but when we arrived in the town, he disappeared from me,” he says.
He adds that he was picked up by some passersby and taken to Iganga Police Station where he was kept for a day and told to look for his father upon which he returned to the street.
Another boy, 10, claims he ran away from his parents’ home at Magamaga Town in Mayuge District two years ago following torture by his stepmother and siblings.
“My Stepmother and brothers were beating me besides denying me food. They told my father to stop buying for me scholastic materials and that is when I left,” he narrates.
Another 14-year-old boy, however, claims to have run away from Namakoko Village in the newly created Bugweri District following mistreatment by his aunt.
Whereas some of them have genuine reasons for being on the streets, others admitted to having left home without the knowledge of their parents.
“I just wanted to live on the street,” says a 14-year-old boy who claims to have run away from home in Busowobi Village, Nakigo Sub-county in Iganga District.
He adds that majority of the street children have turned to drugs and inhaling fuel.
“We take these drugs to get intoxicated and sleep without bothering about coldness, mosquitoes and hunger,” says one of the minors.
“We don’t have permanent places to sleep. Sometimes we are rounded up by police officers on patrol and later released,” one of them reveals.
During daytime, some of the children engage in petty businesses such as picking up scrap and empty bottles which they sell to get some money. However, residents accuse them of theft.
Mr Paul Bwenibwamwiko, a resident of Kasokoso Ward in Iganga Municipality, says street children have different gangs which terrorise them by snatching phones and breaking into houses.
“They are often used by robbers to break into houses and their numbers are rising. We ask authorities to intervene,” said Mr Bwenibwamwiko.
Mr Enock Ndazula, the deputy mayor for Iganga, estimates the number of street children at 300 and attributes the surge in numbers to parents’ negligence and abdication of their responsibilities.
“Most of them come from Busoga Sub-region and the major cases we get are of torture and child negligence,” he says.
Mr James Mubi, the Busoga East police spokesman, says they lack a remand home to keep juvenile offenders.
Ms Angella Kagoya, a field officer with Voice for the Needy Iganga, a community based organisation, says some children are drawn to the street by poverty in their homes.

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