By Timothy Sibasi,
In what has turned out to be another blunder of extortion at the expense of subjecting Ugandans seeking for employment to shire modern slavery in the Arab world, a Ugandan local staff Yasin Musoke working at Uganda’s mission in Oman has committed the Ugandan government to enter an agreement with the Oman based government for further exporting Ugandan girls to this form of modern day slavery.
This latest disturbing labor export agreement falls on the heels of Parliamentary investigations into complaints of sexual slavery, torture, poisoning, dehumanization of Ugandan female workers and other cruel treatments by their Arab employers.
Apparently many Ugandans have been reported dead on several occasions, others languishing in prisons but unfortunately there’s no bilateral agreement between the Ugandan government and Arab countries on exchange of inmate arrangements since Uganda runs a different legal regime from the sharia law.
Under foreign diplomacy policies, a mare local staff who’s not entitled to diplomatic immunity can’t subject her country into any bilateral arrangements, agreements or talks with a host country. Yasin Musoke was never appointed by the appointing authority in Uganda nor vetted by the Uganda Parliament or had went through normal recruitments of Ugandans by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Uganda attached to its missions abroad. Inside sources have intimated that Yassin Musoke was like any Ugandan working in Saudi Arabia but in one way or another then he was recruited under unclear circumstances to casually work at the Uganda’s mission in Riyadhi Saudi Arabia without going through due recruitment procedures of the Uganda government.
Apparently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Uganda on its website it’s still tight lipped to comment on Musoke’s conduct and the likely diplomatic implications it may cause to Uganda and the government of Oman. Yasin Musoke is reported to have engaged the government of Oman to front his personal interests with some Arab recruiting agencies without the awareness of Uganda’s acting Charge de Affairs, one Ambassador Ahmed Senyoomo. Meanwhile efforts to reach Mr. Senyoomo are still underway despite of technical glitches to have him live on phone or social media handles.
Ugandans in Riyadhi and whistle blowers in this particular scenario have raised the concern seeking quick intervention into the conduct of Yasin Musoke before the agreement he signed on behalf of the Uganda government with the Oman government is taken into effect.
There have been several efforts by the International Rescue Committee to save several Ugandans trapped in dehumanizing Arab slavery in the United Arab Emirates; with names held we give you some of the recounts of Ugandans in the Arab world who send audio recorded messages expressing their sufferings at the hands of their Arab employers in modern slavery.
The audios are sent to their Whatsapp group page dubbed “Kadanke Team no stress” which is a safe place for Ugandan House Maids in the Arab world, they cry over voices of happy children in the background and encourage one another to stay strong.
“He assaults me every other day, sometimes for no reason whatsoever. I work for a couple in Dubai. I was never briefed about the man’s disability prior to working for this family yet I accepted my fate. I knew for certain I was going to help around the house with chores but was surprised when I was the one supposed to cater for my disabled boss without any help, I would help him bathe, carry him to the toilet and anywhere else he wanted to go without anyone’s help. I never cared so much about his disability until the abuse started; most times he pushes me or slaps me. ‘I asked them to take me back to the recruitment office because i could not bear the mistreatment anymore but I was ignored’. Due to the special care that my boss needed I asked for an increment in my salary but it was declined, am therefore stuck in this house with nowhere to go and being assaulted on a weekly basis.”
One of the women cried from bondage in a bathroom cell, she had not had a meal all day. ‘I am tired, I think this is the end of me am thinking of taking her my life. It was not the first time she was locked in the filthy bathroom.
‘Don’t do it cried the other girls in the group, please, don’t!’
The others spoke of overwork usually from 5am to 2am, racial abuse like calling them dogs and monkeys hence they were lucky to have rice daily as a meal. Most of these maids eat plain white rice and tomato sauce on a daily basis, with majority getting one meal a day, which meals are usually left overs.
The women talked about failure by their employers to stick to the terms of the contract like for example provision of sanitary pads and food, medical bills among others. With the 800 Durhams (217 USD) paid to these women on a monthly basis, they have to cater to most of these needs and are left with little or nothing to look after their Children. Most of these women leave Uganda because they want to provide for their children, and they end up not doing so because of fault in payments or sometimes no payment at all.
Sex abuse behind closed doors, one woman talked about how she was currently nursing tears from continued rape and was informed by her boss not to say anything of the incident or she would not receive her pay.
These employers only do so because they are aware nothing can be done to them both by the Ugandan Embassy and Recruitment agencies in the U.A.E because they are protected under the Kafala System.
Uganda, statistically has witnessed a decline in Human trafficking cases. According to The National Preventing of Trafficking in Persons Office, there were 837 cases in2013 and 294 in 2014. Although this is a step towards combating human trafficking in Uganda, it cannot be denied that people will forget about a pressing issue until tragedy reoccurs like death of one of the victims. Today 30 women are still held captive in their said places of work, with no voice, helpless because they are in debt to their masters. Forced by circumstances and fear of being ridiculed by society and their families most, victims are in limbo with no one to turn to as their own agent won’t help in neutralizing the situations, the Uganda Embassy in these states will do so little or nothing.
According to migrant rights org, the Government of Uganda has on occasion agreed to supply millions of domestic workers to countries like Saudi Arabia in order to cover human resource shortages caused by bans on migrants from countries such as the Philippines, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Countries like Uganda are cash strapped and desperate enough to sign these unfavorable deals without considering the implications of human trafficking in the midst of Gulf’s Labor rights crisis’
The current unemployment problems at 75% and the absence of a Minimum wage policy accounts for the current suffering of Ugandans who flee the country in search of greener pastures in the Arab world that ends up being a death trap to them.
Recently Uganda’s delegates to this year’s International Labor Organization conference found themselves under attack. Despite decades of debate, Ugandan legislators have yet to establish a minimum wage, a fact that labor activists are criticizing.
With the ILO demanding that Kampala officials establish one by next year, the government’s labor minister responded with assurance that a minimum wage would be in place by 2015. But within Uganda the move is controversial, with many saying the focus should be on attracting investment and creating jobs.
The Ugandan government has long been reluctant to fix a minimum wage. The country’s labor minister recently agreed to consider a proposed wage for unskilled workers is 75,000 shillings, or around $30 a month, but only after studying the matter carefully.
Pius Bigirimana, of the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, warns that acting too hastily could be bad for everyone.
“You don’t just rush into a minimum wage without studying, to look at employment trends, to look at the cost of living and the wage trends by profession, by geographical regions,” he said. “So fixing a minimum wage without regard to all these factors may destabilize our macroeconomic framework and affect employment trends.”
While countries like Kenya and Nigeria do have minimum wages, their private sectors are also better developed than Uganda’s, Ssewanyana adds, explaining that Uganda needs to focus on increased employment, even if it is badly paid.