Updated at 1457 EAT on Thursday 4th August 2022
Security agencies have successfully traced and found a Ugandan woman from Kawempe who was allegedly sold off for marriage in Iraq.
Officials from the Internal Affairs ministry started tracing the woman only identified by her pseudo name ‘Shifah’ at the beginning of July after her husband filed a case at Kawempe police station.
Agnes Igoye, the deputy national coordinator of the trafficking in-persons department at the ministry of Internal Affairs, says that the search for Shifah is finally over since she has successfully been tracked down.
“We want to thank the team at the State House, our security people because in areas where we don’t have embassies, we have to use various stakeholders to support including foreign affairs,” Igoye said.
Information gathered by the directorate of citizenship and immigration control (DCIC) indicates that Shifah left Uganda on October 17, 2021, together with eight other girls aboard EgyptAir. According to Igoye, Shifah was trafficked by James Ssempijja and a one Lilian who hoodwinked her with promises of a job in Saudi Arabia where she would earn $900 (Shs 3.5 million).
But while at the airport, Ssempijja informed Shifah and the other girls that they were heading to Iraq and not Saudi Arabia as earlier planned. Nevertheless, the ladies accepted to proceed with the journey with all indications that they were being trafficked.
Shifah’s trafficking was orchestrated by a friend of her uncle only identified as Boaz. It all started during the second lockdown in June last year when Boaz approached the victim indicating that he had a friend who had an Asian man in need of an Arabic-speaking housemaid.
Shifah, who was conversant with Arabic, saw an opportunity to make some money. Boaz connected her to Ssempijja who reaffirmed that there was a well-paying job for a housemaid in Saudi Arabia. Ssempijja masqueraded as a labour officer from Wakiso district and would often meet her outside the district offices, which gave Shifah confidence that she was dealing with a genuine person.
When she reached Iraq, she was paid just $250 (Shs 920,000) instead of $900 (Shs 3.5m). Igoye explains that when Shifah complained about the payment, her employer Abu Mustafa Muhammad travelled to Uganda and met Ssempijja and Lilian.
It was at this point that Mustafa reportedly informed Ssempijja that he had fallen in love with Shifah and wanted to pay money to own her. It is not yet clear how much Mustafa paid Ssempijja and Lilian. However, when he returned to Iraq, he informed Shifah that he had paid her off for marriage.
“When she refused Mustafa’s marriage advances, he became violent and started beating her. She called her husband who filed a case at Kawempe police station – drawing public attention. Mustafa had brought another man to marry this woman because she had rejected him,” Igoye said.
Igoye says traffickers often tell their victims not even to share with anyone that they are going out of the country and coach them to tell lies to immigration officials. The Uganda Association for External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) through its spokesperson, Ronnie Mukundane, says there are several crooks operating quark external recruitment organizations.
Mukundane explains that the indicators of human traffickers are having no permanent offices and in most cases, they give their clients visit visas.
“Once we get such companies, we alert our line ministry (Gender and Social Development). If you are being taken to work abroad on a visa ticket, just know you are being trafficked,” Mukundane said.