When Saturday Vision ran a story of a lost child, Marvin Jakisa, who was stranded at Old Kampala Police Station, little did anyone know it would open a Pandora’s box.
When Saturday Vision ran a story of a lost child, Marvin Jakisa, who was stranded at Old Kampala Police Station, little did anyone know it would open a Pandora’s box. GLADYS KALIBBALA followed up the child tra¬ cking saga of four children uprooted from Masaka and sold to a family in Nebbi district.
It started in October 2008 when Kenneth Mpiima, a builder residing in Katooke village, Nansana, shared his financial problems with colleagues at a church for Bornagain Christians in Nsambya, Nabisalu zone.
His soft drinks business in a small shop at the New Taxi Park was collapsing and he could no longer afford to take care of his children.
His colleagues introduced him to Pauline Rachiwu, who offered to take his children to an organisation based in Nebbi. “She said she had people who had helped educate children to higher levels,” Mpiima recalls.
He handed over his three children, Moses Kisakye, 6, David Mukisa, 3 and Janet Ruth Natukunda, 2. He also advised a friend, Edith Nassiwa, who was also struggling with her son, Marvin Jakisa, 5, to do the same. The four children were given to Pauline.
A few months later, Pauline asked Mpiima to sign a document stating that he had given her the children willingly and that nobody should bother the people who took them on.
For five years, Mpiima never saw the children, in spite of his efforts to, at least, see their pictures. “She always told me not to worry, that the children were fine,” he narrates.
“So, recently when I got money, together with my in-law, Seremba, we looked for Pauline (who now sells charcoal in Wakiso market) and asked for directions, convincing her we only wanted to see the children.”
When they arrived in Nebbi, they discovered that two of the children were living with Joyce Atim, Pauline’s sister. She refused to hand them over saying she had paid sh350,000 for each child.
“She claimed she had bought them from a Government agency and insisted that I had to refund the money plus the amount spent on the children for the last 5 years, if I wanted them back,” he said.
They traced the other two children to Pauline’s parents, in Padwot village, Nebbi.
They, too, refused to hand over the kids, so Mpiima took matters to Nebbi Police. Atim, her husband Totin Omwon and Beatrice Nyamungu were taken to Nebbi Police Station. Nyamungu is Pauline’s friend, who allegedly received the money from Atim for the children.
They produced the document Mpiima signed when he gave up the children, but Police decided to hand over the children.
According to the O/C Nebbi Police, Gimton Aguta, Atim, a resident of Rock View Ward in Nebbi town council, has no children and had always wanted to adopt.
“Her sister, Pauline, brought her the two children and she took them to a private school in Nebbi and has been catering for their fees.
Her husband Omwon also said the children were brought by Pauline,” he said, adding that he could not confi rm whether Atim actually bought them. Aguta explains that Atim was attached to the children and did not want to surrender them.
Mpiima and Seremba returned and handed over Marvin Jakisa to his mother Nassiwa in
Kampala. But the boy could only speak Alur. The two could not communicate and, soon after, the boy disappeared at a bus park.
He was later handed over to Old Kampala Police as a lost child. When his story appeared in Saturday Vision last week, the parents in Kiwangala, Masaka, turned up to claim him but Police could not understand how Baganda parents could claim an Alur.
The story unfolded and led to Pauline’s arrest at Wakiso market. Meanwhile, Jane Mirembe, mother of Kisakye, was so happy to reunite with her child. Mirembe, who sells soft drinks at Kampala bus park, left Mpiima when
Kisakye was only three months old.
She said she lived with her son until 2008, when Mpiima proposed that they send him to people who were ready to educate him up to university.
“I was reluctant but he insisted. Now, I use sign language to communicate with my own son because he does not understand a single word of Luganda!” she laments. Kisakye is 11.
The in-charge, family and child protection unit at Old Kampala Police Station, Rebecca Araba, says Pauline will be charged with child trafficking. She advised parents against surrendering their children to somebody else in the name of getting assistance.
However, Seremba, the uncle of the other two of the children and brother to Mpiima’s late wife, said when he went to Old Kampala Police, he was told that Pauline had been released.
He alleged that it was because Pauline was a daughter of a big offi cer in Police.
“That woman should fi rst refund the sh800,000 I spent as I tried to get the children. back. I appeal to concerned authorities to help me,” he said. “The Government needs to be tough with people like Pauline because many parents are losing their children in such a manner.”
Alex Seremba, 22, is the brother of the late Mariam Nalukwago, Mpiima’s wife and mother to two of the children he gave to Pauline.
The resident of Namungoona, Kampala, insists he was the one who compelled Mpiima to go to Nebbi in search of the children.
“When my sister died in 2008, Mpiima asked us for his two children, Jane, 2, and David, 4, who were, by then, living with our parents at Kiwomya near Lukaya. We knew Mpiima did not have enough money but he claimed a Born-again woman had an NGO catering for needy children in Malaba. So my mother agreed to release the children.”
For years the maternal relatives kept asking Mpiima to see the children, in vain. Then Seremba claims something extraordinary happened.
“Three months ago, my elder sister, Nassali of Katungulu near Lukaya was ‘visited’ by our late sister’s spirit in a dream, which demanded that we hurry and rescue her children because they were about to be sold to Congo,” Seremba said.
“Later, another sister, Robinah Namuddu of Buikwe, had a similar experience. I decided to do something. I approached Mpiima who said he had no money for transport.
I got the money and he took me to Pauline, whose directions to Nebbi were very confusing. We had to promise her that we only wanted to check on the children and not to bring them back.” Seremba added that he got concerned when a boy they found at Pauline’s home in Wakiso told them she had gone to collect money sent by some Europeans.
“I got scared because her fellow Born-again in Wakiso had said she could be selling children.” In Nebbi, Seremba says they paid their way to Omwony, husband to Atim who had the children.
According to Araba, the boys were not mistreated in Nebbi. They were loved and looked after well. Araba, who chatted with the kids at length in Alur, said they told her they only knew Nebbi as their home.
“In fact, Marvin wanted to be put on the next bus to Nebbi because this place is foreign to him,” she said, adding that the boy knew he had a mother somewhere but could not remember her.
And since he had been told that the woman in Nebbi was his mother’s sister, he was comfortable staying in Nebbi. Seremba lashed out at Mpiima saying: “Five years without seeing your children?
You can’t do such a thing! Imagine my mother has to use sign language to communicate with her grandchildren!
The children isolate themselves and play alone because they don’t understand what the others at home in Masaka are saying!”
Father duped into selling own children