Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The National Children Authority-NCA, a statutory body responsible for monitoring the welfare and ensuring the protection of children, has challenged the punishment given to the Malongo sub county chairperson who was convicted for conniving in the marriage of an underage girl.
Last week, the Masaka Chief Magistrate Charles Yeteise convicted Simeo Ssenkyama, the Malongo sub county chairperson in Lwengo district, to one-year imprisonment or a fine of two million Shillings after he was found guilty of misusing his office to initiate negotiations aimed at concealing a defilement, and sanctioning the marriage of a 12 year-old girl.
Court heard that in 2017, Ssenkyama mediated negotiations through which the parents of a 12 year-old girl were compromised into marrying her off to a defiler who had earlier impregnated her. The accused was also found guilty of soliciting 1.2 million Shillings as ransom from the offender, before entering a formal agreement with the girl’s father who agreed to marry off the victim in exchange for money.
However, the National Children Authority through their acting Executive Director Martin Kiiza, is dissatisfied with the sentence granted to Ssenkyama, describing it as inappropriate compared to the magnitude of the offence he committed.
Kiiza has told Uganda Radio Network that the authority has considered challenging the court decision, arguing that such a simple punishment may instead exacerbate the state and rate of children abuse cases. He indicates that any form of sexual abuse against minors is a grave criminal offence that attracts tough punishments to the offenders, as one of the ways to jealously protect the rights of children.
Besides the unconvincing sentence granted to Ssenkyama, Kiiza adds that they are also concerned about the police’s failure to arrest the real defiler, who according to prosecution is still at large. He says that besides complaining to the judiciary to seek a re-trial, the authority is going to task the police to swiftly pursue all culprits in the offence and have them prosecuted accordingly.
The NCA intervention comes days after a section of residents in Lwengo district led by Paul Kagumaho, the chairperson of Lwentale C village where the offence was committed, raised their voice to oppose the punishment which they say is not commensurate to the offence.
These are currently pushing for a vote of no confidence against Ssenkyama whom they accuse of misusing his office and abuse of public trust when he fell short of his expectations of promoting the welfare of the people he leads.
Efforts to speak to Ssenkyama have remained futile as his known phone lines remained switched off since his conviction on Tuesday last week. But URN has established that he chose the alternative of paying a fine of two million Shillings and had his custodial sentence suspended.
The judgment was reached after Ssenkyama successfully pleaded for a lenient sentence when he feigned ignorance about the offences he was charged with. He argued that he only came in to support the warring neighbours to resolve a dispute arising from an affair between an eighteen-year-old adolescent and the female minor.