The Grade One Magistrate’s Court of Mbale this week charged the former LC3 Chairperson of Bukiabi Sub County Steven Kuremu and remanded him to Maluku Prison for allegedly trafficking the late Christine Nambereke who died from Oman in May this year.
The dramatic story of Kuremu and his alleged crime serves as pointer to the tough task Uganda has to fight human trafficking amidst high levels of unemployment and impunity.
After the death of Nambereke Kuremu was declared ‘a wanted man’ by the Police and other security agencies. It is not clear whether the search for him started immediately. But one woman, an activist by the name of Mariam Mwiza, is closer to the Kuremu story as the man himself.
Soon after Nambereke’s death, Mwiza and Nambereke’s family came out to demand for justice.
“The audios and videos I have are very clear. When Nambereke was dying, she was crying one name Steven Kuremu you have killed me. I have died but my kids…” Mwiza told me in an interview some time back as she continued her efforts to have Kureme face the law. Her earlier attempts had been frustrated.
In part one of our Human trafficking Series titled: “Human Trafficking: Tracing the death route via the infamous Lwakhakha border”, which was published on 4th July 2019, we exposed how impunity had kept human trafficking vice alive and thriving in Elgon region
We quoted Mwiza accusing the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Namisindwa district Moses Kigai and the District Police Commander (DPC) Livingstone Ssendikadiwa of hiding and protecting Kuremu.
The DPC denied the allegations but, interestingly, said the suspect – whom he claimed was difficult to track because of the porous border between Uganda and Kenya – would be arrested with in few days.
Ten days after we published the story, the DPC arrested Kuremu from Bukiabi trading centre where he was operating a grocery.
He was detained at Lwakhakha Police Station and the following day transferred to Mbale Central Police Station. After seven days in the cell Kuremu was released on bond.
Mwiza claimed that she spent UGX 120,000 to facilitate CID officials to Mbale to interrogate Kuremu but only reaching there, they found when the suspect had been released without the consent of even the main complainants.
The State House anti-corruption unit on Tuesday this week rearrested Kuremu and later produced him in court on Wednesday. He was charged with aggravated trafficking in persons and remanded to Maluku prison up to September 24.
Kuremu has been walking and working freely until the intervention of the State house unit.
“As an activist who has been following this case since its genesis it is at least good to see the trafficker is behind bars. I am now waiting to see the law taking its course,” she said.
Mwiza says that unless all organizations, government and individuals declare war against human trafficking chances of eliminating the vice are too low.
“State House has to intervene to have Kuremu arrested. How many cases will reach State House?” She asked.
Human trafficking is big business. Traffickers in Uganda, for example, are said to be earning between USD 4000 and USD 6000 per person they traffic. The agent in Oman is estimated to be earning between USD 10,000 and USD 13000 per person.
A 2014 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) indicates that human trafficking earns profits of roughly USD150 billion a year for traffickers.
The 2018 Police Report indicates that 286 incidents related to trafficking in persons were registered during that year as compared to 177 in 2017 and 125 in 2016.
Records at the Ministry of Internal Affairs show that both internal and external human trafficking cases registered in 2018 were 650, nearly twice the number in 2017 which is 355.