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MPs Demand Audit Into Street Children Funds

Street children in Kampala/Courtesy photo

MPs on Parliament’s Committee of Gender, Labour and Social Development want an audit into all funds released by Government to resettle the street children especially from Karamoja region, after realizing the number of these infants have increased on Kampala streets.

The call was made by Flavia Kabahenda, Chairperson Gender Committee while interfacing with officials from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) who had been summoned to respond to concerns raised over the increasing number of street children in Kampala hailing from Karamoja region.

This followed a motion tabled by Faith Nakut (DWR Napak) who wanted Parliament to urge Government to respond to the plight of Karamojong children enslaved in street begging and forced labour.

“This Parliament has allocated a lot of money, recently Shs3Bn but only Shs300M went to Koblin. So, for us as a Committee and Parliament, we want an audit on the very much money that we appropriate and up to now, we never get an account of the money but we continue to see children increase,” Kabahenda said, adding: “And so we are concerned, what do we do differently because whatever I see in the report is what you have been doing, not what you want to do.”

It should be recalled that in May 2020, MPs on the Budget Committee recommended to Parliament to approve a Supplementary request from the Ministry of Gender, to a tune of Shs2.4bn that will be used to relocate street Children off the streets in Kampala.

Officials from the Ministry of Gender told Parliament that the funds are expected to finance priority interventions targeting 1,500 street children.

The funds were meant to relocate the street children during the first lockdown in 2020.

Robert Kyukyu, Acting Director Strategy Management at KCCA informed the Committee that currently, in April 2020, KCCA alongside Ministry of Gender rescued 202 children from the streets and quarantined at Nakivubo Blue Primary School for two months.

He also added that Kampala is home to 700 street children with most of them living in Kisenyi and Katwe areas and when KCCA attempted to repatriate the children back to Karamoja, the plan was thwarted by the local politicians who told the children to remain in Kampala and not return in Karamoja.

However, Charles Bakkabulindi (Workers MP) tasked KCCA to explain how they reached to the conclusion on the number of street children in Kampala saying there are no records of parents complaining in Karamoja or Napak where the families indicated the number of children that disappeared.

“So if you are going to repatriate and take them back, where are you going to put these children? You are looking at the closure of these houses in Katwe and Kisenyi as the more sustainable strategy but the person who is supplying is intact and you think if you close Katwe and Kisenyi, can’t they shift to Nakawa or Naguru?,” Bakkabulindi said.

The Authority also apprehended 166 children in June 2021 and these were quarantined at Nakivubo Blue Primary School.

Dorothy Kisaka, Executive Director KCCA acknowledged that the increasing number of street children is evolving from a social to commercial issue, but efforts to rid the city of these people was hampered with the outbreak of Covid, that diverted focus from the plight of these children.

“It is true this is a social evil that has blanketed the city and it is evolving and you have added the issue of security which you agree with and we as KCCA have been dealing with Covid. You asked a pertinent question, where did these children go during lockdown and it is a question to everybody,” said Kisaka.

Kabahenda also protested the practice of KCCA bundling up these street children and later dump them in Kampilingisa, arguing that the facility is a juvenile detention and as such, doesn’t qualify to be home to the street children.

 “Are these children in conflict with the law? So ‘why do’ you take them to the juvenile facility after bundling them and roughing them up, and throwing them on track?” She asked, adding: “Actually most of them walked back on foot. For me I see that as torture because these are victims of violence, child labour and poverty and if you add torture on top of what they are suffering, I think you wouldn’t be doing a good thing.”

The MPs also tasked KCCA to explain modalities put in place to ensure that the children sent to shelter homes are protescted from abuse in the new homes, saying that mushrooming NGOs are attracting these children and they are using them for different purposes.

Bakkabulindi also questioned KCCA why efforts are being put on relocation of these children to Kapilingisa and no action is taken against parents who traffic these children to Kampala.

“I would be more interested in seeing the measures being taken against the politicians and adults who are bringing the children, not necessarily the children. Because eat the end of the day, yes you are saving the children, but the process will continue because it may be commercial. If nothing is done on these people,  I think to me we are wasting time, that is why I said we are dealing with symptoms,” said Bakkabulindi.

Arthur Waako (Budaka County) attributed the mess of street children on KCCA failing to establish a settlement plan in Kampala, a trend that has seen people construct at free will without supervision of the Authority.

However, KCCA argued that the problem of street children from karamoja children should be handled as a national matter not just an issue for KCCA and warned that with the declaration of 7more cities, these new administrative units are likely to witness the same challenge.

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