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Two Arrested for Dropping Coffin at Saudi Arabian Embassy

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Police have arrested two members of Torture Survivors Movement Uganda after dropping a coffin at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Kampala, while protesting the continued torture and killings of Ugandan migrant workers in the Middle East.

The protest on Tuesday, followed the reported cases of torture and subsequent death in Saudi Arabia, of another Ugandan migrant worker identified as Caroline Kyomuhangi whose body hasn’t been returned to the country.

The group led by Sharon Kemigisha, a woman councillor for Wandegeya parish, loaded the coffin on a vehicle registration number UAQ 814B and stormed the Saudi Embassy located in Kololo, an upscale Kampala suburb. The coffin was wrapped in Saudi Arabian flags and with placards demanding a halt on the acts of torture and murder of Ugandans in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries.

However, police surrounded the protestors and engaged them in running battles. Police impounded the vehicle and confiscated coffin. Sam Eddie, one of the protestors and his colleague yet to be identified were arrested.

Kemigisha described the demonstration as a peaceful action noting that despite disruptions by security forces, they won’t give up on their cause against human trafficking, torture and killings of Ugandans in the Middle East. She said they want the Government of Uganda and the Embassy of Saudi Arabia to do more to save hundreds of Ugandans being killed.

“In a space of one month, we have seen five dead bodies of girls who went to work as maids in Saudi Arabia. And we have never seen their government coming out to say something here. Enough is enough we want something done to stop this,” she said.

Kemigisha who said that she is also a former victim of human trafficking and torture in Saudi Arabia in 2016, called on the Government of Uganda to regulate companies taking Ugandans abroad.

Bosco Sserukuma, another protestor said they came up with the coffin and the national flag of Saudi Arabia at the embassy as a sign of mourning for hundreds of Ugandan migrant workers that have been killed, and their families never got justice.

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango, said the suspects are detained at Kira-Road Police Division on charges of  illegal assembly and inciting violence.

“We have also confiscated that coffin as an exhibit. And we want to appeal to the members of the public that if they want to do something at the embassy, they should follow the procedures before engaging themselves in the demonstration,” Onyango said.

In August this year, Uganda said it was to review the agreements with a number of countries, particularly in the Middle East, as cases of abuse of migrant workers continue to rise. At least 140,000 Ugandans live and work in the Middle Eastern countries, according to the Uganda Association for External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA). But many have reported being physically assaulted, sexually abused and in worst case scenarios returned to Uganda in body bags.

In 2021 alone, 84,879 Ugandans travelled to the Middle Eastern countries of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Iraq, Bahrain, Jordan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Oman among others. Early this month, Uganda announced the review of the agreements on migrant workers with a number of countries, particularly in the Middle East because of the increasing cases of abuse. Records from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development indicate that Ugandans working in the Middle East remit about US 900 million US Dollars, approximately three trillion Uganda Shillings annually.

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