Uganda: Who is Luring Karimojong Children Back to Streets?

Uganda: Who is Luring Karimojong Children Back to Streets?
The Monitor (Kampala)

28 June 2007
Posted to the web 27 June 2007

Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa & Robert Mwanje
Kampala

THE number of street children in Kampala had reduced in the past five months but it seems they are returning.

According to a snap survey conducted by Daily Monitor in the last couple of weeks, street children, majority of whom are Karimojong, have changed tactics as they sleep in the suburbs and resurface in the morning to beg. This is a shift from their earlier lifestyle of sleeping on bare floor and verandas of city shops.

Some city authorities, however, blame Dwelling Places (DPs), an NGO, for the menace. Recent media reports claimed DPs had erected makeshift structures in the city slums of Kisenyi and Katwe to accommodate Karimojong children and women in the guise of helping them and in return solicit funds from donors.

However, DPs has denied the claims. Speaking to reporters in Kampala recently, DPs Managing Director Ritah Nkemba said they had no plan to return children to the streets.

"Such reports are baseless and should be disregarded. Like any other NGO handling children at risk we simply supplement the government’s efforts of rehabilitating and resettling those children,"she said.

State Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Musa Ecweru last week said the government was investigating the allegations against DPs.

The government and KCC recently launched a campaign to take street children and beggars off the streets in preparation for the Chogm in Kampala in November. However, the process has not been without hurdles.

Over 80 per cent of street beggars on city streets are said to be from Karamoja, according to local authorities and humanitarian agencies such as Unicef that have conducted studies on the children’s movement.

The street beggars are mainly children and women. It is estimated that between 200 and 400 women leave Karamoja every month for Kampala.

Between February and March, KCC is estimated to have relocated over 100 beggars per week from the city into Kampiringisa Rehabilitation Centre. The centre houses nearly 900 Karimojong youth but the majority were relocated to Kobulin Transit Centre in Moroto District.

A 1993 Gender Ministry study indicated that there were 4,000 street children in the country. But currently with the influx of Karimojong families the number is estimated at 10,000. In the city, the number is estimated at more than 3,000.

Persistent cattle rustling in the Karamoja, prolonged famine, violence and lack of basic services are blamed for the influx of these people from their villages to the city.

Ms Nkemba said at the DPs rehabilitation centre at Mutundwe, a city suburb, the NGO after 535 children 315 of whom are Karimojong.

But what lures the children back to the streets?

People who act as Good Samaritans and donate money and food to the children have apparently frustrated efforts to relocate them.

Last year, KCC promised to pass a by-law criminalalising the giving of money or other items to street children but the law is yet to come.

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