Just under two weeks ago, we challenged the Uganda Police Force and Muslim leaders to clear nursery and primary schools or madrasas of terrorist links. That time; it was reported the madrasas in Bugiri, Namayingo, Busia and Budaka districts were being used as terror breeding cells. Then, we had warned that no Ugandan would want to hear of any more terror breeding cells in Kibuku, Pallisa, and Budaka districts as the security agencies already feared was the case. Also at that time, the scale of the problem was largely confined to eastern Uganda, especially Busoga sub-region.
But this alleged misuse of children for subversive activities has reportedly stretched to the central region. We have heard of more cases in Mpoma and Namawojolo villages in Mukono District, where 24 more children, some as young as two years, were reportedly rescued by the police.
It is unacceptable if indeed such young and easily impressionable minds continue to be deviously manipulated to lose their identity, innocence, and be weaned into religious extremism and violence.
Some the children, especially the toddlers, have reportedly lost all recollection of their name, those of their parents, or guardians. Moreover, police accounts have it that the youngsters are confined in unfinished buildings, use unclean and unsafe water and toilets and drilled in art of war.
Such morally objectionable manipulation of children, if the accounts are dependable, for subversive instructions, are as criminal as the Lord’s Resistance Army campaigns that radicalised children and turned them into murderers and threats to security. Despite all these police claims, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council spokesperson Nsereko Mutumba maintains the police is persecuting Muslims, and fanning hatred among the Islamic faithful.
But as we warned before, the back and forth accusations between Muslims and the police on this problem doesn’t provide any concrete solutions. What is essential and urgent is for the police, Muslim leaders, and concerned district local leaders to sit down and have a conversation and clear up this mess now. They should quickly take all the necessary steps to identify the children, re-unite them with their parents, guardians, and relatives. They should also work together and pick out the masterminds of this dastardly act in an attempt to stamp out this budding trouble.
Short of this, the confusion in trafficking in Muslim children will continue and threaten the security of Uganda and the region.