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Parliament moots law to take children off streets

Homeless children sleeping along the streets. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – The Parliamentary Forum on Children is set to present a private member’s Bill that seeks to curtail the trafficking of children from Karamoja and other parts of the country to Kampala streets for begging.

The Forum’s vice chairperson, Terence Achia, said the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009 does not adequately address the rising cases of street children and the clandestine sale of children especially girls at the Arapai market in Soroti district.

Achia, who is the Bokora County MP, made the  remarks on Monday whileging off the Journey of Hope, a campaign to raise awareness about of the crazy journey many street children take to find a ‘better’ life in Kampala.

The revelation comes just a week after an activist said government cash allocation will not solve the problem of street children in Uganda but rather fighting the human trafficking ring fuelling the practice.

Government in this financial year has allocated UGX3.4 billion towards getting the children of the streets of major urban areas of children.

But Mr Don Wamara, a human rights activist, said this won’t work unless government redirects it’s efforts towards killing the source of the children.

“In 2017, the retract remuneration found out that there are 15,000 street children in just 4 districts of Uganda. These include Kampala, Jinja, Iganga and Mbale. The urban centres are a pull factor with opportunities,” he said.

“This is a profit-making business. Someone is making a living off these children and we’re fuelling this business by giving these children money. The people responsible for helping these children get justice are paying a deaf ear and this hurts me. Police have arrested some people but what happens after? We’re dealing with a smart group, you think you’ve gotten the ring leader but you have not. Until we kill the source, we shall continue seeing this,” he added.

The debate on the topic has been reignited after the wall fence of Lohana High School in Kampala collapsed on street children on Sunday night, killing six of them following a heavy downpour.
Mr Wamara added that those human traffickers are taking advantage of the children’s innocence and vulnerability and in the end, they become criminals.
“Whenever you go to a certain place, you need to find ways to survive and adjust to your new environment. These children are constantly on the streets, they’re scared and don’t know what will befall them on the streets. If the opportunity comes and the only way they can deal with it is by doing drugs or smoke, then that’s what they’ll do,” he said.
The activist also argued that by the public giving money to the street children, they are making their captors rich.
“Let’s stop giving these street children money, then find out who these people are. We need to kill the business. The people responsible for helping these children get justice are paying a deaf ear and this hurts me,” he added.
Nevertheless, he praised government for the budgetary allocation.
“We need to realise that for some time, there’s been no resource envelope for street children from the government. I’m excited they’re being considered now. But government alone will not do it, it needs everyone. We need to have measures in place that stops the flocking on children on the streets. We need to give them skills that get them off the streets.”
Mr Wamara also accused parents of negligence.
“Urban centres are a place where street children can look for cheap labour or become a source of cheap labour. The streets look more appealing than their homes. My analysis with all the children I’ve worked with over the last 6 years has brought me to the understanding that we have a  fallen parental system. Parents aren’t part of the protection system and this has led very many children to the streets. We’ve failed to provide for them. We are failing as parents to play our role, we’re failing as community leaders to be gatekeepers. Poverty will always be there but the biggest problem is the poverty mindset. We have struggling families but over time they’ve managed to provide for their families.”

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