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Kalangala residents were aware of sex abuse reportsPublish Date: Dec 05, 2013
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Security personnel tries to stop a New Vision journalist from taking photographs of Bernhard Glaser (left) during his transfer to Kampala 

By Eddie Ssejjoba

Several residents of Mwena village in Kalangala district have spoken out regarding the activities of Bernhard Glaser, a German accused of sexually abusing girls on Bugala Island.

Glaser, the proprietor of Ssese Humanitarian Services (SHS), who was picked up over the weekend is still in detention at the Special Investigations Unit of the Police in Kireka.

Meanwhile, 34 teenage girls said to be his victims are under Police protection at an undisclosed address. The home remains under 24- hour Police guard.

Some residents interviewed expressed shock at the raid, while others said it was long overdue since there had been numerous reports of misconduct.

Kato Stephen, LC1 chairman of Mwena village

When Glaser came to Kalangala, he claimed to be a doctor and was dealing with women’s reproductive health issues. But soon, women started complaining about his methods of work. When the complaints increased, I contacted the LC5 chairman, Daniel Kikoola.

When Glaser’s premises were searched, we did not find any documents supporting his claims of medical training.

His clinic was closed, but because he was helping vulnerable children, we let him stay and run the SHS. Years later, reports that Glaser was sexually abusing children were filed but again, no evidence was found.

More complaints came in that the man always advised the children to insert some substance into their private parts to cure itching and candida. Residents also filed several complaints about the way girls under his care dressed.

These teenagers had started wearing micro-minis. When rumours persisted, I approached him but he was not receptive.

Many district officials, including the Police, are close to him.

Kassim Sserugo, resident

I have reports that the man exposed the girls to sexual immorality like asking them to massage him and teaching them to use sex toys like dildos if they got the desire to have sex.

However, Harriet Namisango, the chairperson of Kalangala District Women’s Initiative for Development, said in several probe reports, the girls denied being abused.

But in separate interviews, some of the girls confessed to having been given orientation on sexuality while at the centre.

Testimony of 17-year-old girl

I joined the home with my sister but our grandmother demanded that we leave after hearing the reports of sexual abuse.

While there, I was never abused but whenever new girls were brought in, the administrators would give them a briefing on the man’s sexuality.

All of us would freely go into his bedroom where we some times watched TV and shared the bed. We would also use his bathroom and sometimes as we bathed, Glaser would come in and ask us if our private parts were itching.

Whoever answered in affirmative would be asked to insert some medicine packed in a tube. There were many of these tubes in his bedroom and the bathroom.

Shy girls would cover themselves with a towel when he knocked on the bathroom door, yet others didn’t mind. He would wear gloves and insert the substance into the private parts of those who did not mind.

Testimony of 13-year-old girl

The contraceptives were compulsory for every girl because he feared that we would get pregnant. I also had to get the contraceptive.

Many of us would be given mattresses on which to sleep in his bedroom because of the growing numbers in the home. We slept in his room because some times he would ask for a massage. He had a condition which would make his feet and legs swell.

It is only massage that could reduce the swelling.

But Sylvia Nassozi, a gardener and caretaker at the home, said the accusations were the result of malice. She said her two daughters were among the group that travelled to Kampala with the Police.

“I am a widow who has no money to travel to Kampala to get the children. I’m stuck,” she said on Tuesday.

Nassozi was in company of a Belgian couple, Deleu Riet and her husband, Accoe Robert, a retired police officer, who said the Police told them that their host would return before their return to Belgium on December 11.

The couple said they had informed Glaser’s wife in Belgium who was reportedly trying to secure his release.

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