Fake NGO in Uganda busted for trafficking 83 children, 3 suspects arrested

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Uganda Police spokesperson Fred Enanga addressing journalists.

Mayuge, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | In Mayuge District, the police have successfully rescued 83 children from suspected traffickers operating under the guise of an unregistered NGO called NAMU Mission Uganda. These individuals had reportedly gathered the children from different locations in the Busoga sub-region.

Discovered in a house in Wabulungu village, Magamaga town council, Mayuge District, the children, aged between five and 16 years, had reportedly been taken from Bugiri, Iganga, Mayuge, and Kamuli Districts.

According to Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga, the operation recently conducted by police in the Busoga East Region and Mayuge Central Police Station uncovered a suspected child trafficking operation orchestrated by the ‘fake’ NGO.

“The 83 rescued children, comprising 40 boys and 43 girls, are currently under the care of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division with the support of three counselors,” said Enanga. He added that “They are receiving medical and psychological attention while authorities work to reunite them with their families.”

Enanga confirmed the arrest of three suspects; Justin Namugenyi, 37, the alleged director of the NGO, Kirevu Hakim, aged 38, and Kimbowa Musa, aged 45. 

“Investigations are ongoing to determine the motives behind the operation, how the children were lured into the organization, and any potential accomplices.”

“These children were reportedly promised education and better living conditions,” Enanga said.

However, he said that further investigation revealed that the NGO was not registered and that “its activities were highly suspicious.”

Enanga urged the parents to conduct thorough background checks before associating their children with any organization.

The Mayuge District Police Commander, Ms Agnes Aanyu, revealed that the children, many of whom were described as “emaciated,” were intended to be transported to an ungazetted area, with the pretense of enrolling them in different schools.

Concerned residents became aware of the children’s deplorable living conditions, prompting them to alert the police to the suspicious activity.

“We got there with my team, including the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Resident District Commissioner (RDC), and found boys sharing the same shelter with girls in bad living conditions,” Ms Aanyu said on Monday 5, February 2024.

Ms. Aanyu additionally disclosed that a 37-year-old woman named Justin Namugenyi, who claimed to have secured bursaries for the children and was informing their parents, has been apprehended. She is currently in custody at Mayuge Central Police Station.

Ms. Aanyu explained that Ms. Justin Namugenyi, allegedly utilized her organization, identified as NAMU Mission-Uganda, to persuade parents to entrust their children to her, promising them scholarships.

“We were not aware of this organisation’s existence, work and have preferred charges of child trafficking against the suspect. I urge all parents whose children had been taken under an arrangement with NAMU-Uganda to crosscheck with Police and pick them,” Ms Aanyu added.

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Justin Namugenyi contends that her organization is “legally recognized” and attributes her troubles and subsequent arrest to “sabotage.” She stated, “My organization is legally known all over the country, and I even have certificates allowing me to operate in Mayuge and Iganga (districts).”

While acknowledging picking up children from various parts of Busoga with the intention of enrolling them in schools for more affordable education, Ms. Namugenyi denies engaging in human trafficking, as alleged.

However, Mayuge’s Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr. Hamis Kiganira, dismissed Ms. Namugenyi’s explanation as a “scapegoat,” pointing out the presence of inexpensive private and government-aided (Universal Primary Education-UPE) schools in the area.

Mr. Kiganira highlighted the susceptibility of sub-counties in Mayuge District, especially those bordering water bodies like Malongo, to child trafficking, with reports suggesting some children are trafficked for rebel activities. He emphasized ongoing efforts by security, coordinated through the RDC office, to minimize this issue.