Early this month, New Vision reported a story of the arrest of two women for allegedly trafficking babies. Our undercover reporter, working with the Police, tells the story of how Julian Kirabo was arrested
Working on a tip, I went undercover to look for Julian Kirabo, a woman believed to be buying babies from residents in Muganziwaza Kazo, Bwaise.
This was on January 16. I later learn that she is popularly known as Musawo Julie. I found Kirabo washing clothes.
“I am a university student and I have a problem only you can help me solve,” I told her. My story was that I had a friend who had given birth, but could not afford to look after the child.
“Who directed you to me?” she asked. “My friend in Makerere,” I answered.
“Oh, Mama Aisha, right?” I nodded, even though I did not know any Mama Aisha.
She was eager to know more about the supposed mother and baby. “He is three months,” I told her. She asked if the baby was circumcised. The foster home on Mityana Road, where she takes the children, had only three vacancies left.
“The babies must be below three months of age and not disabled,” she told me. She wanted to know if I had pictures of the baby.
She called someone on phone. “Someone has left a baby on my door step. Can we bring him?” The person on the other end of the line must have agreed, for Kirabo told me to go and bring the baby immediately. I was eager to know where the baby would be taken, but she was reluctant to give that information.
We exchanged numbers and I left. In the space of two hours, she kept calling and sending text messages, asking if we were bringing the baby boy. I told her that the baby was not feeling well.
“Just bring him, we shall treat him for free,” she offered. I kept in touch with her to get as much information as possible. I cannot count the number of times she called, asking when we would bring the baby.
At one point, I candidly told her the supposed mother wanted to sell her baby and leave the country.
She sent a text telling me that they do not buy children. However, she insisted, it was best for her to meet the mother and the baby. And she could not confide in me much as the go-between.
I smelled a rat. Had I stumbled on a racket of babies being trafficked?
Sometimes, when Kirabo called, I did not answer because I had run out of excuses to give her.
I decided it was best to alert the Police, so we could work together and for my own protection. We got a young mother with a baby to come with me. I told Kirabo I would go to her house on Tuesday, January 21. The Police would follow at a distance.
Kirabo was away when we got to her house, but arrived as soon as I called her. Immediately she saw the baby, she told us we had to head straight to her boss in Nansana.
I told her that the mother wanted to know under what conditions the baby was being taken. We were in the middle of bargaining when the Police swooped in.
She confessed that she ‘collects’ children, whose parents cannot afford to look after them, and takes them to a foster home.
The Police searched her house, and were more suspicious of what she does when they recovered some documents which revealed that a three-month-old infant, Dalton, had been willingly handed over.
Kirabo confessed that the babies they look after are between zero and three months old, adding that the children return to their parents at 18 years.
“We also pay school fees and look after them until that age. The parents agree to hand over their babies without anyone forcing them,” Kirabo said.
The Police got more suspicious. “Which mother hands over a baby below three months old?” asked Francis Olugo, the deputy commandant of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Kireka.
The area LC chairperson, Fred Kyambagwe, said he was aware of Kirabo’s alleged cause.
“One time, a woman came driving an expensive car to Kirabo’s house. They told me they wanted to look after orphans and children whose parents are HIV-positive. I had no idea that they specifically wanted children below three months old,” Kyambagwe said.
After about three hours of recording statements and searching Kirabo’s house, she led us to the said foster home in Yesu Amala Zone, Nansana.
It was a plush home in a high wall fence with a huge black gate. It was the home of Kirabo’s boss, Sandra Namutebi.
The spacious sitting room had leather sofa sets and a flat screen. On the wall were different family pictures.
In the dining room were three young babies carried by nannies. There are two maids and one houseboy to feed and take of them.
Namutebi told us one of the babies, three-month-old Nalumu, was HIV-positive, although both her parents were alive.
There was Dalton, now four months old, and a one-month-old baby. Namutebi claimed its mother died on December 26, 2013 at Mulago Hospital and the father surrendered the child because he could not look after him.
There was also a three-year-old boy who, Namutebi claimed, was Kirabo’s son. “He came here for holidays three months ago,” Kirabo said.
Namutebi said she was a medical doctor, formerly working as a gynaecologist at Mulago Hospital. “I retired and I now help children. I produced only two children, but in my heart, I simply love babies,” she said.
However, Namutebi could not produce any documents permitting her to own a foster home. All she had was a certificate of incorporation for a company named Kamukamu Community Development Association Company, limited by guarantee. It is dated September 25, 2013.
Namutebi could also not avail a certificate to prove that she is a medical doctor. “It is in Lyantonde with my mother,” she said. All she showed us were two passports. The expired passport, issued on February 21, 2003, revealed that she was a secretary by profession.
The new passport, issued on March 4, 2013, showed that she was a medical doctor. The Police arrested Namutebi and Kirabo.
However, after interrogations by the SIU, the two were released on Police bond.
Sunday Vision has learnt that the Police have submitted the file to the director of public prosecutions’ office.
Mulago distances itself
Meanwhile, Mulago Hospital has distanced itself from Namutebi. “Her name is nowhere in our records, not even as an intern, volunteer or nursing assistant. She is telling lies,” said Enock Kusasira, the hospital’s spokesperson.
The Police suspect that Namutebi could be a quack doctor.
Just who are these women?
Namutebi is married to a white man living in Germany. They have two adolescent children. Namutebi speaks Runyankole-Rukiga and is believed to have worked in Tanzania before coming to Uganda.
She reportedly owns chunks of land in Nansana town council, where she does dairy and crop farming.
A source claims before she got her passport, she forged documents saying she had a degree in surgery from Tanzania. Sunday Vision could not independently verify this.
Kirabo is a mother of three. Her youngest child is one year old. She was born and raised in Kazo, Bwaise.
Her parents are peasants. Kirabo stopped in S6 because of lack of school fees. She is a hairdresser in Bwaise and claims to be a community health worker.
Residents believe she is a woman who is desperate to make a living and support her children
Where do the children end up?
Whereas no evidence has been found linking Namutebi and Kirabo to trade in children, the Police are taking the investigation seriously because there have been other cases of children being smuggled outside the country.
“They easily move across the borders, posing as parents to these young babies. Once they are out of the country, they are used as sex slaves, or in the booming pornographic industry,” a Police source said.
Some babies are sold to childless or infertile couples across the globe at a hefty fee. Interpol officials say most of the top destinations for African children are Asia and European countries.
In 2012, Interpol recovered up to 300,000 babies from a racket in Spain. They were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns, over five decades.
Many parents are struggling to care for their families. A resident of Bwaise says they are given as little as sh500,000 to give up a child. Some suspect that some of these babies are stolen and sold to child traffickers.
Referring to the case of Namutebi, a source says: “There is a global black market for stolen babies.
The organised criminals have realised that it is hard to sneak out adult children, so they target babies, whom they can claim as their own.
Some have their body parts, such as kidneys and liver, taken out and sold.”
A 2013 report on child mutilation in Uganda by Humane Africa, revealed that every week, a Ugandan child is mutilated or sacrificed and their body parts removed, often while the child is still alive.
The organs can be sold for between sh500,000 and sh1m, depending on the age of the victim and the period taken to hunt down the victim.
Where are the parents ff Namutebi’s ‘foster’ children?
The babies have since been taken to babies’ home in Kampala. The Police are encouraging parents, whose babies went missing, to come forward.
“But they have to undergo a DNA test to prove that they are the parents to the baby they identify as theirs,” Olugo said.
Sunday Vision has learnt that some matches have already been made. The Police is questioning the parents who allegedly handed over their babies to Namutebi.
“We are definitely wondering why a mother, who is alive, would give up her child of less than three months, to another person to look after. That is the most delicate stage. Are these real parents or just brokers? ” Olugo asked.
According to the Police crime report, out of 3,984 child-related cases investigated in 2012, 307 cases were of stolen children.
This shows a rise in the cases of children being stolen compared to the previous year (2011), where out of the 3,329 child-related cases investigated, 261 cases were of stolen children.
Olugo encourages the public to report any cases of missing children. He also cautions parents to be vigilant.
“Do not trust anyone with your child,” he says.
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Rwandan child trafficking suspects attacked Publish Date: Jul 12, 2009
Child trafficking reports probed Publish Date: Jun 18, 2007
Report confirms child trafficking in Karamoja Publish Date: Nov 19, 2006
Babies stolen from hospital
By Sauda Nabakiibi
On July 12, 2006, the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Councilmheard that Dr Asinja Kapuru was involved in switching Farouk Bukenya and Sauda Nabakiibi’s live male baby with a dead female one at Mulago Hospital.
In August 2013, Kapuru was consequently suspended from practising medicine anywhere in the world for two years.
According to the council, Kapuru reported that he delivered Nabakiibi’s baby boy by caesarean section. But it was in poor condition because of severe asphyxia (breathing complications).
Kapuru said he was convinced to change the record by a senior nursing officer, who insisted that the baby was a girl.
In August 2013, 58-year-old Rita Oyine was arrested for stealing a newborn baby from Jemina Alima in Tororo Hospital.
The baby was reportedly stolen by women disguised as medical personnel. Alima entrusted the baby with one of the women who had brought her tea.
When she went out of the hospital to look for transport to return home, the woman and the baby vanished.
Rehema Nakuya, 25, believes she delivered twins in the wee hours of June 2, 2009 at Mulago Hospital, but when she woke up from a caesarean operation, she was presented with only one baby.
She reported to Wandegeya Police station with a scan which showed she was expecting twins. She later went to Central Police Station.
The hospital, however, insisted that the twin story was a creation of people who wanted to spoil its name.
The then hospital’s executive director, Dr Edward Ddumba, said Nakuya used a dubious ultrasound scan where the image of the foetus was frozen twice to give the impression that there were two babies in the womb.
On December 3, 2012, Goretti Kajumba, 33, reportedly gave birth to a baby by caesarian section at Mulago Hospital. When she gained consciousness and went to the neonatal special care unit to see her baby, the attendant asked her to produce evidence of having given birth.
As she walked away, they called her back and asked what her name was. She was then told that the baby had died. When she asked for the body, she was told it was not in the special care unit.
Kajumba went home after four days. When her relatives read her documents, they discovered her baby had not died. When she went back to Mulago, she was told her baby had been buried.
Her relatives later contacted the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, who directed the commander of Kampala Metropolitan Police, Felix Kaweesi, to take up the matter.
Nasta Namugga, 18, of Nsagu in Mpigi, claims she gave birth to twins on February 23, 2009, but was handed only one baby.
Although medical personnel at Mulago maintained that she gave birth to only one baby, Namugga was referred to Mulago, from Mpumude Health Centre, for a caesarean operation because she had failed to deliver after a day of labour pains.
Jennifer Musimenta and her husband Michael Mubangizi on July 18, 2013 dragged the executive director of Mulago Hospital Dr Baterana Byarugaba and the Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, to the High Court over the loss of one of their twin babies delivered on March 14, 2012 at Mulago.
The couple alleges that the hospital staff told them that one of their babies had died at delivery, but the hospital could not locate its body.
Three days later, they were given a body but the couple protested, forcing the Police to order a DNA test. The results were negative for both parents.