By Pascal Kwesiga
KAMPALA - A 32-year-old-Ugandan woman and an eight-year-old orphan are still stranded in the US, four months after they were reportedly abandoned by a charity – African Children’s Charities (ACC) – that sponsored their trip there.
The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development said it was processing return air tickets for Joan Nakibuuka and Mohammad Luwasi after New Vision broke the news about their plight last month.
However, the ministry halted the process (of securing the two return air tickets) after their “agent” reportedly claimed that Nakibuuka had “happily settled in a pastor’s home and that she is not willing to return to Uganda”.
The charity sponsored Nakibuuka and Luwasi to the US in May 2014 to enable Luwasi undergo a corrective surgery for a severe deformity in his back.
The surgical procedure was carried out on Luwasi free of charge by doctors at the University of Arizona Medical Center in June 2014.
The charity, according to Nakibuuka, then sought for an American citizen to adopt Luwasi after the operation.
‘Not willing to return’
The ACC president, Vikki Kattman, according to Nakibuuka, kicked her and Luwasi out of her house after she blocked the charity through police and the Ugandan embassy in the US from giving Luwasi up for adoption in August 2014.
The commissioner for youth in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mondo Kyateeka, told New Vision that they had established that Nakibuuka could have first consented to the deal to adopt Luwasi, but disagreed with Kattman after she was given little money.
“Our agent has told us the lady [Nakibuuka] is not willing to come back,” Mondo said.
He said their “agent” works with a renowned international children’s organisation (name withheld).
But Nakibuuka has dismissed the reports that she is “happily settled” in a pastor’s home in Arizona, saying the ministry could have spoken to people working for ACC.
African Children’s Charities sponsored Nakibuuka and Luwasi to the US in May 2014. (AFP/Getty Images)
Nakibuuka said she was called by a lady who reportedly “interrogated” her over the issue and that she promised to call back, but has never done so.
“Be careful with people from that organisation and they are telling lies to the Government in Uganda,” Nakibuuka said.
“Remember they forged adoption papers for Luwasi and took them to his grandmother to sign when we were still in the hospital.
“If it was possible for me to leave today, I would not hesitate. If I was not suffering here and my children suffering in Uganda I would not have contacted you [New Vision]”.
‘We need permission’
Uganda’s ambassador to the US, Oliver Wonekha, said Luwasi was rescued from the charity by the embassy’s consular officer, Stilson Muhwezi, in Arizona in August last year.
Muhwezi also dismissed reports that Nakibuuka could have consented to the deal to get Luwasi adopted, but later disagreed with charity over money.
“It’s clear Nakibuuka didn’t know about the deal and her intention was to come back to Uganda after the surgery,” Muhwezi said.
Asked why the embassy has not processed return air tickets for the two, he said: “We need supplementary funding and permission from the foreign affairs ministry.”
The head of anti-human trafficking in the internal affairs ministry, Moses Binoga, said he is still investigating if the charity is legally registered to operate an orphanage in Uganda.
The charity’s director in Uganda, Umar Semwogerere, asked New Vision to get permission from Arizona where the organisation has its headquarters so as to visit its offices in Uganda.
Ugandan woman, orphan still stranded in US