Child kidnap on the rise
By Christopher kiwawulo
Saturday Vision Newspaper, Masaka, Uganda (May 3, 2008)
THE boy's father, Pele Ondoga, was in a nearby church when his wife phoned to say his son had gone missing. "The news hit me hard. I could not believe it," says Ondoga, an evangelist at Lembanyoma Full Gospel Church.
He had heard about children being kidnapped for sacrifice but it had never occurred to him that his son, who had been circumcised, could fall victim. Those who bring children to witchdoctors do not take circumcised boys, he had been told.
After a frantic door-to-door search in the crowded neighbourhood, Ondoga rushed to the Police to report the disappearance. On Sunday, he was informed that his son's body had been found.
"I, immediately, went to Jinja Road Police Station. The body had been taken to the mortuary but the sandals I found at the Police station were his," he recalls.
The man is inconsolable. "I loved my boy so much", he mutters, his face resting on his palm. "He was jolly and friendly. He was not only my child but also my friend."
The motive of the kidnappers is still not known but Ondoga, a pastor who converted from Islam, believes his son was a victim of child sacrifice.
Hassan's kidnap is not an isolated case. The Police are investigating several child disappearances that have taken place in and around Kampala in recent months.
Last week, seven-year-old Salim Abdu, a primary one pupil at Old Kampala Primary School, went missing. He was not at school when the house help, Abel Bwambale, went to pick him at mid-day. The Police are still looking for him.
Another lady, Alice Businge lost her baby a week ago to an unknown visitor who convinced the house maid that he was Businge's brother.
The Police are also still searching for three-year old Imran Lubega who went missing in Gazaland Plaza, a Kampala shopping mall, on Monday.
And in February, nine-year-old Jimmy Turyagyenda survived being sold at sh3m to a witchdoctor by his father. Entebbe Police saved the boy after a tip off and arrested the father, who had lied to the boy's mother that he was sending him for studies.
According to the 2007 crime report released recently by the Inspector General of General of Police, a total of 54 children were kidnapped, stolen or went missing last year.
Of those, seven were rescued and three were confirmed killed. The whereabouts of 40 others are still unknown.
Although the figures went down compared to 2006, Police sources say they have seen a recent increase in the number of children reported missing.
A Police source told Saturday Vision that currently, about 10 cases of disappearances are reported to different Police stations in Kampala weekly. "The majority of children have not been recovered," the source said.
While some children might have run away from home, the Police suspect that others, especially the very young ones, are being used for sacrifice by witchdoctors who promise their clients wealth in return.
"We are now working with the traditional healers through their chairperson to stamp out this practice," says Edward Ochom, Kampala Extra Region Police commander.
Others, according to Ochom, might be victims of child trafficking to other countries. "Child trafficking is a complicated issue because there is sometimes consent between the minor and the trafficker. The latter lures the victim with promises of high pay but ends up exploiting him or her."
In a bid to curb the vice, the Police are carrying out sensitisation programmes on radio stations and in schools for both parents and children. "The issue of child safety is the responsibility of every Ugandan", says Ochom. "If you see a child of a tender age moving alone, you should be concerned and ask the child where he or she is going."
Ochom advises that parents should alert their children to be suspicious of strangers, and avoid sending them to shops at night. "Parents should know the playmates of their children and their homes and they should have meals with their children every evening so that they can easily detect when a child is missing."
Parents are also advised to drop and pick their children from school or take turn with other trusted parents or caretakers.
Until concrete action is taken to arrest this new wave of child abductions, it remains a major cause of anxiety to the public.
You can also read the article online at: http://www.newvision.co.ug/detail.php?mainNewsCategoryId=8&newsCategoryId=12&newsId=625811