The revealing report; titled; “Where Do You Want Us To Go?”published by Human Rights Watch (HRW), shows that Police officers, Local Government Officials constantly beat up street children and extort money to release them.
“Children living on the streets in Kampala and throughout Uganda’s urban centres face violence and discrimination by police, local government officials, their peers and communities in which they work and live,” say the report.
It adds: “Police and communities often treat street children as a part of the larger crime problem, arbitrarily arresting, detaining and beating them, and forcing them to clean detention facilities. There is widespread belief within both community at large and the police that street children are all criminals.”
Maria Burnett, a senior researcher with HRW and the author of the report said Ugandan authorities should be protecting homeless children, not beating them up or throwing them in police jails with adults.
Besides the police, the report points out that key government institutions are failing to adequately protect street children. It cites the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development – under which falls the Children’s docket, as perpetrators of rights abuses for street children.
“The Ministry of Gender, local government officers periodically order general roundups of street children throughout the country. These roundups usually occur ahead of speal events, official visits, international conferences, or are a way for the ministry to be seen to be tackling the perceived ‘problem street children,” says the report.
The report also criticises the government and other state institutions for criminalizing NGOs and other civil society organisations that help street children. District councils in Lira and Kasese for example passed ordinances criminalizing provision of support for street children.
In a response to the accusations, Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga told The Sunrise that street children are often involved in confrontations with police officers because they live a hard life that puts them in conflict with the law.
“Police usually gets into conflict with street children because they live a hard life that involves fighting, prostitution, thefts for survival,” said Enanga.
However, the report noted that police officers make deliberate raids against street children specifically during the night when they are sleeping and harass them. In some instances, the street children accused police officers of rape.
Enanga responded however that if there are any specific accusations against police officers involving torture or rape, street children or respective child protection agencies, should report the offending officers to the Inspector General of Government or the Human Rights Commission or
He noted however that in many instances, the police accompanies child protection agencies such as ministry of gender or Kampala Capital City Authority officers to withdraw and reintegrate the children back into the community.