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OWEYEGHA AFUNADUULA: Uganda’s Illicit Economy: Human trafficking

For the purposes of this article we shall look at an illicit economy as a one that is sustained by illicit trade in goods and services intended to defeat or bypass exiting policies, laws and regulations. It can be local, national regional or global. During Ami’s reign it was called Magendo economy. It seems it has come and those at the centre of it are people at the centre of power or connected to power.

Many goods are traded illicitly in Uganda and between Uganda and the outside world. They include gold, allegedly oil, medicines, toys, çosmetics, pesticides, herbcides and even humans and human organs, among others. There was a time in the last 36 years when trafficking drugs, such as Marijuana was very common and involved highly placed people in government, who could easily flout the law.

Even money laundering was very common, with some highly placed people moving with laundered money between airports, cities and countries. It was integral to the national and global illicit trade in currencies.

Illicit economies involve criminal politicians, criminal military men, criminal States and criminal enterprises or corporate. I defined these in another article. They are allergic to law and order, and can easily create disorder to carry out their illicit activities.

In this article I want to focus on human trafficking in the illicit economy of Uganda, which has attracted numerous criminal enterprises. I will mention specifically those which the Uganda Government suspended recently for different criminal activities, including human trafficking itself.

Let me begin with defining human trafficking.
Human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring and receipt of people, either through persuasion, force, fraud and deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profits. But even trade in human organs and tissues is a form of human trafficking. It is the illegal removal, sale and purchase of organs and tissues, which has recently become a very serious issue in Uganda. However, it is a globalised issue that involves buyers in Europe, Middle East and the US. It is in these countries where prosperity drives people to eat stupidly and destroy their organs most. The usual organ traded is the Kidney, but also others, mainly livers and hearts are illicitly traded. Whether taken willingly, by force, or through drugging or through outright killing, the word “donation” has been highjacked by the illicit economy.

This reminds me of my Subgrade and primary school days in the colonial times in the late 1950s. We used to walk through 3km stretch of forest from Nawaka to Ikumbya Primary School. However, before we left home we were warned to be ware of kidnappers. There was one man in Ikumbya who had a shop and a small car. He was known as the kidnapped. They would say if he kidnapped you he would take you and sell you to have your organs removed. May be human trafficking started long ago and has just become more pronounced and visible with rise in greed, selfishness and individualisation of society.

Human trafficking is the greatest indicator of the criminal enterprises. They are almost above the law in their activities, and some are very well protected politically because of their connection to power or powerful politicians or deep State. Although the seats have called their activities involving transfer of young people to foreign lands “externalisation of labour”, there is little doubt that they are dealing in human trafficking for profits by promising victims, they prefer to project as “beneficiaries”.

The Public State of Uganda recently got concerned with reports that some labour firms were more concerned with trafficking people who ultimately lose their organs to criminal groups in especially the Middle East. However, little has been done to stem the vice. Because of the profits realised, a plethora of criminal enterprises now abounds. However, the Public State has suspended many for various crimes, including human trafficking and forgery to keep themselves afloat.

In February 2020 Government of Uganda suspended, not deregistered, the following firms:

1. High Ground International LTD
2. Spotlight International
3. Eagle Supervision
4. Elite Placement Consulting
5. Elite Winners Agency.

Last year the following firms were suspended, not deregistered:

1. Forbes Enterprises LTD
2. Fly International Jobs (U) LTD
3.Top Notch Recruitment Services LTD
4. Al Saltaan Recruitment Agency LTD
5. Gold Star Recruitment Agencies LTD
6. Hala Uganda Rec LTD
7. Perla RecruitmentAgency LTD
8. Pearl of Makka International LTD
9. Al Saudi Agency LTD.
10. Nile Treasure Gate Company
11. Al Madinah Agency LTD
12. Cornell Recruitment Centre Uganda
13. Tempco International LTD.

A list of labour recruitment firms for the lucrative external market released in 2021 shows well over 150 such firms are operating in Uganda today.

It would be interesting to know the brains behind these firms just as government rejoices that trillions are coming into the National Treasury from people recruited to work in the Middle East, and prepares to implement a trade pact with Saudi Arabia where perhaps most of our youth are sent to work, and some lose their organs or are killed to remove their org and for sale to the rich.

For God and My Country

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