By Donald Kiirya in Mayuge
Twelve children who were rescued by the Uganda People Defense Force (UPDF) army and police as they were on course to join the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the DR Congo have been returned and handed over to their relatives in Mayuge district.
They were rescued after a joint operation mounted by the UPDF and police following intelligence information that there was a man who had brought them to Buvuma Islands and was preparing them to join the Islamist group.
The children were driven from Kampala to Mayuge aboard a ministry of defense bus and were received by Mayuge district L.C 5 boss Omar Bongo and Mayuge RDC Margaret Mbeiza at the office of the RDC on Wednesday.
Deputy Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango led the team that brought the children back to their respective homes in Mayuge.
Onganyo said a total of 27 children were rescued from Buvuma. 12 were driven to Mayuge district. Of this dozen, seven were boys and the rest girls.
He said 13 of the 27 children were from Butaleja and two came from Bugiri.
“What the children were being taught was different from the curricula and structures not fit for educational purposes,” said the police official.
“So out of our analysis, we found out that they were being prepared for tougher situations and it also acted as a collection centre for the children before they could be taken to join ADF.”
He mentioned that the children were innocent Ugandans who were being recruited illegally into the ADF camp, adding that they rescued the children on July 27 on Buvuma islands where “they were undergoing mental orientation for other things to come”.
“We have counseled them and before we did it they would not be here with us. They would run away, fearing strangers, but we have re-oriented them from the hard core to the soft core.”
Mayuge district LC 5 chairperson, Omar Bongo, thanked the NRM government, police and UPDF for the successful rescue mission done.
“Children are taken into rebellious activities after their parents being deceived by other people. It is good government rescued these ones and we are going to make sure that they start enjoying government programs like UPE which can help shape them into responsible citizens,” Bongo said.
He pledged total commitment to desensitize parents who have been persuaded into giving away their children so easily in the guise of receiving scholarships and some benefits without proper consultations.
The chairman urged parents to always consult offices of their leaders in case some one asks them to give in their children for scholarships or such kind of benefits.
The district RDC Margaret Mbeiza called for continued and increased surveillance on Lake Victoria especially at the borders of Kenya and Tanzania.
She called on village chairpersons to be more watchful of strangers who come to their villages. She also called for continued spirit of patriotism among the local leaders, reasoning that with patriotism, the subversive activities of the ADF “will die a natural death”.
Seven of the children were returned to one family and were received by a relative. Two others were driven to Buluuta village in Malongo sub-county.
The parents of the remaining three could not be traced by press time, and they were taken to Mayuge district police station to spend a night there.