Trafficking for jobs: Can we avoid the embarrassment?

Some of the girls who were rescued from human traffickers.

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Human trafficking
  • Our view: The government should take action against the hands behind the trafficking of our young girls. For example, who was behind the trafficking of the 54 who were intercepted at the airport?

The news that 54 Ugandans were at the weekend intercepted at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, enroute to Oman in the Middle East, is disheartening, but not surprising.
The stories about Ugandans trying their luck on employment in the Middle East countries are abounding; with the numbers of Ugandans there – formally or informally – anywhere between 65,000 and 70,000, according to reports. The stories about their suffering are also numerous.

In October last year, two MPs, David Abala (Ngora County) and Mr Mwine Mpaka (Western Youth), said of the 48 deaths of Ugandans in United Arab Emirates in 2017, 35 were as a result of committing suicide following a string of frustrations.
These Ugandans have ventured into the unknown because of rising unemployment back home. Which should worry us all. In March last year, the National Planning Authority said 700,000 people join the job market every year regardless of qualification, but only 90,000 get something to do.

Relatedly, a 2017 Sauti wa Wananchi survey conducted by Twaweza, a non-governmental organisation, indicated that 78 per cent of Ugandans think the government is not doing enough in job creation. Many were also displeased with the quality of education (53 per cent).
In the 2016-2021 NRM manifesto, the ruling party promised to create more jobs and also address the Middle East monster by identifying countries we can export labour to in an organised manner. The party also promised to strengthen the enforcement of the various labour laws to ensure that workers are not exploited and mistreated.

Last week, the Gender, Labour and Social Development ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr Pius Bigirimana, said only Jordan and Saudi Arabia have signed bilateral agreements with Uganda for labour export. This is a good gesture and credit should be given where it is due. It is also music to the ears that Mr Moses Binoga, the coordinator of the National Counter Human Trafficking Task force, has promised that government will connect Ugandans to proper employment opportunities in the Middle East.

However, the government must not just promise, but it should also show what it has done to create jobs locally or enabled others create them and avoid the humiliation of its citizens abroad. We need to pride in an economy that has opportunities for all; we don’t have to die for that visa!
The government also needs to take action on the hands behind the trafficking of our young girls. For example, who was behind the trafficking of the 54 who were intercepted at the airport? Who has been taking all those suffering in those countries? We need answers and perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly.