The Government needs to listen to Madhvani’s concerns instead of blaming her for voicing out concerns that require urgent attention.
UGANDANS ABUSED IN MIDDLE EAST
By Fr. Fred Jenga
I am following the recalling for “consultation” of Ambassador Nimisha Madhvani from her posting in the Middle East. Her recall is related to her coming out against the gross abuse of Ugandan girls in the Middle East. Ms. Madhavani is not saying anything new. She simply had the guts to name the elephant in the room. She deserves praise and not blame.
How many news stories have we read or watched about the mistreatment of Ugandan “girls” in the Middle East? How many dead bodies have been flown back to Uganda of women who died under unclear circumstances?
How many times have we read about how Middle Eastern governments refused to co-operate or give a hoot about circumstances under which Ugandans lost their lives? It is this cruel disregard of human life that we find totally disturbing. By giving muted attention to human rights abuses of its citizens in foreign countries, our government is becoming complicit in the abuse of her citizens.
I know the government is making effort to regularize the “export of labor” in the Middle East through stringent screening and licensing of labor exporting agencies, but is should not be cowed by Middle Eastern governments for pointing out the magnitude of the abuses that are happening.
We are talking of human life in the 21stcentury with observance of basic human rights standards required of every country. Nimisha Madhvani should be praised and not blamed for casting to the winds political correctness and tasking Middle Eastern governments to enforce basic human rights standards.
Can you imagine seeing adult Ugandan women crying out before cameras because their wealthy employers in gated mansions won’t give them something as basic as food? Can you imagine your daughter working 22 hours a day on an almost empty stomach, without a break while undergoing verbal and physical abuse? It is this kind of callousness that is disturbing.
Looking at the horrifying stories that are coming out of this whole situation, it is not farfetched to connect this disturbing situation to other larger historical discourses. Black Africa has had a problematic historical relationship with some parts of the Arab world due to slave trade. There appear traces of the same mentality playing out in the shocking treatment of Black Africans. The government needs to listen to Madhvani’s concerns instead of blaming her for voicing out concerns that require urgent attention.
The other important point that appears virtually absent in public discussion of the issue is mention of the existence in Middle Eastern countries of the “Kaffala” or “Sponsorship” system. This obsolete cultural system requires immigrant workers to have local visa “sponsors” to guarantee their stay in the countries.
The immigrant worker requires permission from the “Kafeel” or sponsor to relocate or change jobs, and in some instances to leave the country. The Kaffala system is not only inconsistent with known international labor laws but trap workers into an abusive labor system with no legal protection to turn to for redress.
We are aware that the government is doing its best to regularise the “export of labour” to the Middle East. Stringent screening of employment agencies is being put in place, and engagement of governments in the Middle East is gradually happening. The feeling however by some Middle Eastern governments that they shouldn’t be rushed to act on the mistreatment of Ugandans should not go unchallenged. Enough bodies have been flown back into the country, enough news stories have been filed, and Nimisha’s raising of her voice is simply a crying out that the Middle Eastern governments should have taken action yesterday.
The writer is a Catholic priest and doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin