Posted on February 9, 2011 by The Counter Human Trafficking Blog in Tanzania
Article here 8 Apr 2007
When lawmakers return to the House after the Easter recess, a unique bill is expected to come to the floor; a law against trafficking in persons. Trafficking is more than a word in the dictionary. Uganda, according to several experts, is fast turning into a gangster’s paradise. And the evidence is there. Reports on increasing drug use, foreign women being held hostage for prostitution and children bought and sold like chattels have shocked many.
Reports show that young children from war torn areas of Northern Uganda and Karamoja are being trafficked across borders into Southern Sudan. There have also been reports of Karimojong children being sold routinely at cattle markets. Internal trafficking like smuggling of people across borders by organised crime cartels requires tougher laws. 

The tales continue to trickle in. In one Kampala neighbourhood, Police moved to investigate suspicious people neighbours say were not seen during the day. The raid on Dec 16 2006 uncovered five Sri Lankans.

Shaul Hameed Rifan, Zainul abdeen, Thavaloganathan Tharmaraj, Sundaram Abiram and Sivaramalingam Mayuran had been prisoners for months. The trial led to Shafiq Ur Rehman and Ur Reham Attiq. The two were found at Embassy Hotel in Kabalagala in possession of fake documents and multiple passports.

Police sources say the men had “good” local connections because their passports had not been stamped upon entry in Uganda to possibly conceal their comings and goings even though they had passed through Entebbe Airport. Little is known about their local accomplices because, according to one investigator, they were hurriedly deported.

Trafficking in prostitutes

The story is becoming all too common. Several times the police have bust rings of Indians and Pakistanis trafficking in prostitutes held hostage and brutalised. The porous borders are also beginning to directly leak not only systems of organised crime but also a culture of substance abuse.

Drug traffickers are finding Uganda an easy target because of its weak drug laws turning, Entebbe International Airport into the region’s main conduit of narcotic drugs, experts point out.

According to records from the Aviation police at Entebbe Airport, heroine worth $70,000 (Shs 124million) was confiscated at the airport in 2006 between April and November alone. Police say the fine of Shs 1 million for possession of narcotics in the National Drug Policy Authority statute is no deterrent because the drugs were so much more valuable.

“Stronger laws are required,” said former Police Spokesman Edward Ochom.

Document fraud

He says the majority of the traffickers in Uganda are Tanzanians. “60 percent of those arrested are Tanzanians, we don’t know why,” Ochom said. Many times, because of local document fraud, many traffickers have Ugandan passports; both genuine and forged. Heroine is a major drug trafficked.

One Tanzanian, John Mwanjabala, died on December 8 at Entebbe Grade B hospital after swallowing more than 100 pellets of heroin narcotic drugs he was smuggling to Tanzania through Entebbe Airport. The drugs, which were worth Shs27 million, weighed 1000 grams.

Traffickers tend to come or go to countries in the Middle East or Asia, police say.

Just like the airport most border posts are not properly secured. Police would for example require expensive gadgets.

According to a 2005 annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) heroin traffickers appear to be shifting their operations to airports near large cities in African countries including Uganda [Entebbe]. Drugs are then smuggled back to conduits like Kenya and find their way to North America and Europe.

Trafficking law

Between 1998 and 2000, when the police first noticed an increase in drug activity, they impounded and destroyed 422 tons of Cannabis (marijuana) leaving the country. Also seized were 33 kg of hashish, 19 kg of heroin worth US$ 5.7m and cocaine worth US$1.2 million.

In 1999 the anti-narcotic unit arrested 961 people for drug-related offences, of whom police were able to investigate, prosecute and secure the conviction of 434.

A law on trafficking in persons will help tighten the noose on the human resource that fuels this vice.

At Butabika’s recently established alcoholic clinic there is a marked increase in cases of cocaine addiction. “I used to sniff cocaine and smoke bangi, I did this for five years,” Mary Anne [not real name] confided to a group therapy session which was attended undercover by Sunday Monitor journalists posing as patients. Many more will be hurt until tough laws stop traffickers and their trade.


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