Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government is set to examine sanctions against two Ugandan judges and a lawyer implicated in an adoption scam that saw many Ugandan children victimized.
The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Monday sanctioned Soroti resident judge Wilson Musalu Musene and retired judge Moses Mukiibi, lawyer Dorah Mirembe and her husband, Patrick Ecobu. The four allegedly deceived innocent Ugandan families into giving up their children for adoption.
According to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin G. Muzinich, the individuals involved in the scam deliberately exploited the good faith of Ugandans and Americans to enrich themselves. In several cases, the parents were told that their children were being taken to study abroad but they did not know that they have given up rights to their children.
Documents by the Department of the Treasury show that an unnamed adoption agency used the services of Dorah Mirembe’s law firm to manipulate legal documents and set up intermediaries to engage Ugandan families to give up their children for adoption. Many of the children were then presented before courts as though they were orphans.
It is also alleged that to arrange the adoption of the children, Mirembe, with the assistance of Ecobu facilitated multiple bribes to Ugandan judges Mukiibi, Musene, and other Ugandan government officials, either directly or through an interlocutor.
Now government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that they will examine the sanctions before taking any action. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem says that the sanctions are against individuals who were not performing a state duty, and Uganda is obliged to ensure that they are applied.
As a result of the sanctions, the two judges, lawyer Dorah Mirembe and her husband Ecobu are barred from entering the United States and all their properties or interests in the United States are frozen.
James Ebitu, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender says that they are now working with the American Embassy in Kampala and the Judiciary to ensure that adoption processes are not flouted while investigations against the four sanctioned persons and any other accomplices in the gender ministry continue.
According to the Permanent Secretary of the Judiciary Pius Bigirimana, the sector is also undertaking a review of what transpired during the adoption process. Sources from the judiciary say that what is most likely going to happen is that the government will have to re-investigate the matter.
“Usually when this comes up, Uganda being a sovereign state, has internal processes that will ascertain the authenticity of the sanctions when they get officially shared by the sanctioning government,” the source said.
The Judicial Service Commission also says that investigations have been ongoing on all the sanctioned officials. The commission secretary Ronald Sekagya says that they are concluding their investigations into the mentioned officials and their conduct.
“We have been carrying out our independent investigations and we will be briefing the country in the coming days, we cannot give a time frame until we have something cogent,” Sekagya said.
In a circular dated August 3, the Principal Judge Dr Flavia Zeija indicated that all inter country adoption matters shall be handled by the Family Division of the High Court, while all High Court circuits shall cease handling matters of adoption.
Last year, the USA sanctioned former Inspector General of Police General Kale Kayihura over serious human rights abuses and corruption. Kayihura is facing the court-martial over charges related to aiding and abetting kidnap of Rwandan refugees in Uganda and illegally returning them to Rwanda.