Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The International Crimes Division of High Court in Kololo has confirmed charges of aggravated child trafficking against four religious leaders from Nansana Municipality.
The four are Bishop Fiarce Nkurunziza and Reveland John Nsiyemana, both Rwandan nationals and Charles Ndora and Valens Byakusenge who are Ugandans.
The four are charged with 14 counts of aggravated child trafficking while Bishop Nkurunziza is also charged with another count of operating an unapproved children’s home contrary to sections 56 and 109 of the Children Act that require one to have a license to run a Children’s home.
Prosecution led by Jacqueline Okuii, alleges that Bishop Nkurunziza operated a non-governmental organization and Church under various names like Tukyuuke Holy Ministries. That between August and November 2019, he went around in the community and villages in Mtomera and other neighboring villages in Kibaale district convincing parents and guardians to handover their children to his Ministries for free sponsorship in pre-primary and primary school.
According to prosecution, the Bishop together with his agents collected dozens of children aged between 4 to 15 years both girls and boys and enrolled them to schools under his organisation and elsewhere.
He later transported some 25 of the children to Kabumbi East zone, Nansana Municipality, Wakiso district where he rented a house to keep them. He hired a matron, said to have no training in child care and Child guardianship to take care of them as orphans.
According to court, the children were kept in squalid conditions and some were enrolled in various schools around under Nkurunziza’s organisation. He also hired three people with whom he’s now accused of aggravated child trafficking to work as preachers to carry out various activities under the organisation.
In November 2019, local authorities and Police in Nansana Municipality learnt of the place where Nkurunziza was keeping children without a license to run a Children’s Home or Orphanage. All the children were rescued and their parents and guardians recorded statements at the Police before taking them.
Nkurunziza and his three other preachers were arrested and charged jointly with trafficking in children which is contrary to section 3 and 5 (a) of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2008 and operating an unapproved Children’s Home contrary to section 56 and 109 of the Children Act.
It’s not even clear to court whether Nkurunziza and Nsimiyemana who are Rwandan nationals have any work permits to operate such business or non governmental organizations as per the NGO Registration Act.
When they first appeared before Court in 2019, the four were read to charges but didn’t take plea and didn’t raise any objection to the charges.
Later on 30th November 2021 and 29th August 2022 court held a pre-trial conference and proceedings. Court later held a pre trial hearing and confirmation of charges as is the procedure followed by the International Criminal Court-ICC at the headquarters in Hague. Uganda, being a member of the ICC and hence ratified the Rome Statute which resulted into the enactment of of the ICC Act 2010, follows such procedures when prosecuting such crimes against humanity.
The prosecution and defense led by Defense Daniel Twinomugisha from MS Kintu, Twinomugisha and Co. Advocates agreed on the issues to be determined and disclosed evidence to be used in arguing the case. Two charges, aggravated child trafficking and operating an unapproved Children’s Home or Orphanage were suggested by prosecution and court was to deliver a ruling confirming or not confirming the charges.
On Monday, Judge Vincent Okwanga confirmed 14 counts of aggravated child trafficking against all four accused persons and one count of operating unapproved Children’s Home against Bishop Nkurunziza.
The Judge hence committed the case for trial before this very court and the record of proceedings of the pre-trial hearing. The court hence decided that the case is transmitted to the Head of the International Crimes Division for action. The Head of the International Crimes Division shall then appoint a panel of justices of the High Court to try the case.