We don't need to wait for a dystopian world to arrive. In parts of the world it is already here.
The story quoted from below make a very credible case that a modern state slave trade between eastern Uganda and Persian Gulf monarchies, mostly involving women duped into thinking they are getting work as maids or servants (including involuntary organ donation), is something that it really happening now and not just a myth or a conspiracy theory.
Enslaved Ugandans who complain in the Gulf states end up dead or grievously injured as punishment in incidents unconvincingly purported to be accidents (16 in the last year according to a Ugandan parliamentary report).
The story doesn't talk about U.S. efforts to address this situation, because there have been none. The U.S. currently prioritizes trade with oil rich Middle Eastern monarchies over democracy or human rights.
When Christine Nambereke left Uganda for Oman last September, she hoped she was on her way to helping her husband and seven children fight crippling poverty. An agent had promised the 31-year-old a job as a housemaid with a monthly pay of 600,000 shillings ($168). But when she reached Muscat, she was sold as a slave. And when she returned to Uganda in early May, she was dead.
Nambereke, from Bumbo village in eastern Uganda, is among 16 Ugandans who’ve died in the Middle East over just the past year, according to a parliamentary panel report from April this year. These women — all of whom died unnatural deaths after complaining of abuse — are just the most extreme examples of a growing epidemic of an increasingly open, modern slave trade that starts in Uganda’s eastern region and culminates in closed rooms in Gulf nations.
And for some, even death doesn’t bring closure. . . . After 22-year-old Shivan Kihembo died in Oman in October — months after she had been sold there — her father, Patrick Mugume, was asked by his daughter’s “owners” for money if he wanted her body back. “I sold my land … and sent it to her boss in Oman before the body was released,” he says.
Like Nambereke, Kezia Nalwanga returned to Uganda from Oman dead in April, with medical reports indicating that she died by strangulation. Authorities are also recording cases of abuse from countries where Ugandans are legally allowed to work such as Jordan, Juliet Nakiyemba died at the age of 31 in October. A postmortem showed her kidneys had been removed prior to her death.
When Zubedah Nakitende complained to her Jordanian employers that her hands were aching from work, her boss gave her what she thought was water to wash her hands. It turned out to be an acid that ate up her fingers. Unable to work anymore, she was sent back to Uganda — where she had to have her fingers amputated. “We should support such girls when they come back so that they go back to normal life,” says Sophia Namutebi, a respected philanthropist and traditional healer who helped Nakitende. “We should also support families of those who die while there.’’
Abuse of migrant workers in these countries from Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia has been around for years, and slavery was officially abolished in the last two or three decades of the 20th century in these countries, but reality has lagged behind the laws on the books.
One of the most stunning aspects of this is that authorities have been powerless to shut down this open illegality.
At fast-spreading weekly markets, some women are promised jobs in the Gulf only to be sold once they get there, while others — many of them girls between the ages of 10 and 18 — are directly and publicly “bought” as slaves in Uganda and then resold in the Middle East, according to Ugandan authorities, Interpol, independent experts, legislators, victims and their families.
The public sale of women started at Arapai, eastern Uganda’s second-largest market located 180 miles northeast of the capital Kampala, in January 2018, says Edina Nagudi, the local government’s officer in charge of the region’s markets. It began with the auction of around five girls on each day of the market, but the number rose to 20 within two months, she says. The practice quickly spread to other regional markets such as Chapi and Sire. At Arapai alone, up to 50 girls are now auctioned in a day, says Nagudi. Overall, more than 9,000 girls and young women are estimated to have been bought at these markets since last year — for as little as 50,000 shillings ($14), according to Betty Atim, a member of Parliament.
Interpol . . . has been able to rescue only 12 Ugandan women over the past year.
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Given the blood and toil that ties them, one might expect close relations between Uganda and Gulf nations. But Oman, Jordan and Kuwait don’t even have embassies in Kampala.
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[W]hat’s different with Uganda, experts say, is the openness with which women are being auctioned in markets alongside domestic animals and household goods.
At the cremation ceremony for Nambereke, much of the anger of hundreds of mourners was directed at Ugandan authorities. Officially, Uganda has banned its citizens from seeking work in most Middle Eastern countries — barring Saudi Arabia and Jordan — because it doesn’t have any diplomatic agreements on workers’ rights with those nations, says Uganda’s minister of gender Janat Mukwaya.
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Uganda has a per capita income of $604, so Nambereke was promised three times what the average citizen earns. It’s also no surprise that the markets where illegal traffickers find women they can dupe or buy are predominantly in eastern Uganda. It’s a part of the country that has seen far lower poverty reduction than other regions, according to the World Bank, with electricity available to only 6 percent of families, compared to 32 percent in the country’s central region. To get around the ban, traffickers take the women across the border into Kenya after fixing up their passports, and then fly them to the Middle East.
Because they’re traveling to countries they’re barred from legally working in, even those women who initially went thinking they were getting employed are scared to try and reach out to authorities, experts say. And their host countries — in a region not known for its defense of human rights of migrants — have little incentive to prioritize concerns for these slaves over those of nations that legally send workers there. And so the slavery mounts — as do the deaths.
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Some, like Stella Namazzi, who escaped from her masters in Jordan, return with tales of horror. “We were lined up in a big room,” she recalls. “Those who wanted to buy us came and pointed out who they wanted to buy. We were sold as if we were domestic animals.” For the traffickers, there’s big money involved: The women bought for $14 are sold for as much as $10,000 in the Middle East, authorities say.
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But what about prevention and law enforcement?
Uganda police spokesman Fred Enanga says they plan to raid the eastern Uganda markets where girls are being sold and arrest both the sellers and the buyers. John Mugisha, the probation officer in Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, says they’ve sent an investigation team to the country’s east to probe the slave trade. The ministry, Mugisha adds, has also requested a budget of 34 billion shillings (nearly $100,000) to help tackle the growing crisis and rehabilitate the children bought in the markets.
Meanwhile, the government is passing the buck around and hasn’t been able to stop the practice. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem Okello says the ministry of labor needs to act to arrest traffickers. Mugisha says the ministry of labor has asked local governments to step in with legal remedies. And the country’s labor commissioner, Lawrence Egulu, concedes that Uganda’s law against human trafficking is routinely violated but has no clear answer as to why the government hasn’t been able to put a stop to it.
From Godfrey Olukya at OZY.