By Eddie Ssejjoba
Fresh details have emerged about how Bernhard Glaser, the German-Belgian pensioner at the centre of the Kalangale sex saga, set up a children’s home in Kalangala.
Glaser came to the country as a volunteer with a community-based organisation, Bufumira Islands Development Association(BIDA) in Kalangala.
The Kalangala LC5 chairman, Willy Lugoloobi, says Glaser fell out with BIDA founders because they did not buy his concept on how to run the programmes.
“I advised him to form an organization called Ssese Humanitarian Services (SHS) and serve as a voluntary organisation. We had a big dream. I was not a direct member but I was interested in his programme,” Lugoloobi said.
Lugoloobi, who was the district’s probation officer at the time, says he advised Glaser to help the children without removing them from their homes because he did not have what it takes to run a children’s home. He said he furnished Glaser with details on how to set up a children’s home and made it clear to him that he did not have the requirements.
“I told him face to face not to keep the girls at his home,” he said.
Prior to setting up the children’s home, Glaser wanted to set up a mobile clinic but later started a clinic at his home at Mweena landing site about three kilometres from Kalangala town. But according to Lugoloobi, Glaser did not have a doctor’s certificate.
At one time officials from the National Drug Authority stormed his centre, searched and confiscated all the drugs he was using to treat women and girls.
Lugoloobi says he received complaints that the girls under Glaser’s care were being sexually harassed but when a female Police officer spoke to two of the girls, they denied it.
“This case should be investigated with an open mind, if there is any evidence of him abusing the children, let the law take its course other than shielding the man,” he said.
He said all stakeholders need to work with the police to establish the truth because many of the parents had been taking their children to the centre willingly.
He said that during a recent District Orphans and Vulnerable Children (DOVC) coordination meeting.
Lugoloobi said he visited the home as chairman after getting complaints of how Glaser was operating and established that Glaser got sponsorship for the girls from abroad. He also learnt that some of the girls had been obtained from court as defilement victims who were stranded.
Some of the vaginal lubricants the Police recovered from Bernhard Glaser after he was arrested. PHOTO/Matthias Mugisha
On Thursday, however, Lugoloobi came under attack during a fisheries meeting at the district headquarters from Edward Maalo, the coordinator of the NGO forum, who accused district officials of working closely with Glaser.
Maalo later told Sunday Vision that if allegations of sex abuse are confirmed, then district leaders who have been closely working with him should also be arrested and prosecuted.
The acting Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Michael Wanje, the district permitted Glaser to operate the centre but were not fully aware of what happened inside the centre.
“I know he has been keeping children and he has been attending our NGO forum meetings. One time we summoned him over the issue of these children though I cannot remember his defense,” he said.
“The former CAO, Olive Nakyanzi, complained against Bery (Glaser) of sexual abuse of girls but the community rose up against her because they were benefiting from him and regarded him as a good man,” he said. “Apart from the issue of implants, I had not got any other complaints of sexual abuse, otherwise, we would have intervened,” he said.
However, Kassim Sserugo, a resident of Mweena village where the centre is located, views Glaser as a strange old man teaching young girls about immoral acts that are foreign to Ugandans.
According to Sserugo, Glaser had a daughter who used to treat women with sexually transmitted diseases and when she left the father took over.
“He started recruiting young girls from poor families and many were orphans and needy, which was okay on the face of it but later the community disapproved of the way he was conducting himself before the girls,” Serugo said.
“We started getting information that this man allowed girls sleep in his bedroom, asked them to massage him and was training them in foreign habits like how to satisfy themselves sexually,” he said.
He said they were very upset that girls used artificial sexual organs. Sserugo said community members were confused as to where to register their complaints since they would occasionally see the Police community liaison officer and other district officials, including the area Grade One magistrate visit the centre.
He also said they complained against how the girls were dressing, which the community considered indecent.
Steven Kato, the Mweena LCI vice chairman and in charge Children’s Affairs said that two years back, Glaser’s clinic was closed after he failed to produce papers authorising him to operate as a medical doctor. However, continued to treat the girls.
He said LC officials had been discussing allegations from the community that the man sexually abused the girls. “He always ignored advice from the community leaders because he did everything with top district officials,” Kato said.
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