By: REBECCA JUN
Uganda’s government and civil society commemorated the 10th anniversary of the country’s Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act (PTIP Act) on October 23 in Kampala. The PTIP Act was Uganda’s first law to demonstrate its commitment to fight against human trafficking, prohibiting all forms of human trafficking and prescribed punishments up to life in prison. The PTIP Act accomplished three main objectives for Uganda. It (1) established the legal definition of human trafficking, (2) determined the punishments for each offense, and (3) provided victim rights and protections, calling upon the Ministry of Internal Affairs to implement the act.
The significance of this event was to celebrate Uganda’s dedication to build upon the PTIP Act and to look forward, publicly proclaiming the country’s continued dedication to stop traffickers.
Over the past 10 years, Uganda has made significant strides to build upon this act. The gala event keynote speaker was Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, the Hon. Rebecca Kadaga (pictured above). The Human Trafficking Institute partnered with Uganda’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to host the gala for around 200 guests.
“We will not stop trafficking until we stop traffickers,” said Justice Mike Chibita, Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecutions, in his opening remarks.
The anniversary event included video remarks from Ambassador-at-Large John Cotton Richmond from the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, as well as a short documentary highlighting key voices who have fought against human trafficking in Uganda over the past 10 years. One of those voices belongs to Agnes Igoye, Head of the Immigration Training Academy and Deputy National Coordinator for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons in Uganda. In the film, she recalled the years prior to 2009: “There was no definition of what trafficking was. There was no concrete law supporting the counter trafficking work. Many people got away with it. The traffickers had a field day. The best thing that happened to Uganda is the prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, because the government finally recognized this problem.”
While this event celebrated the major strides achieved over the last decade, it was also a time to look ahead. Kadaga shared her thoughts about the future of Uganda’s approach to human trafficking advising law enforcement agencies to educate the public about recruitment agencies that try to lure Ugandans out of the country. Chibita noted the key to stopping trafficking is understanding traffickers. “Trafficking is a covert crime that makes it difficult to investigate, thus we need specialized training and designation of focal point persons,” he said. “We plan to elevate the trafficking desk at the DPP to a full department, which will lead to better prosecution of human traffickers.”
“The anniversary event really showcased the impressive anti-trafficking infrastructure that exists here,” said Alyssa Currier, Institute Assistant Special Counsel in Uganda. “I have complete confidence the robust network of government agencies, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations will reduce instances of trafficking in the coming years if the focus is on prosecution-led investigations, victim witness assistance coordination, renegotiating exploitative externalization of labor contracts, and specialized training — particularly for officers outside Kampala.”