Karamojong elders have asked local leaders in the region to find homegrown solutions to stop their children from flocking the streets of Kampala and other towns. The elders say the influx of children mainly from Napak district to the streets can be traced to historical trends and occurrences.
Jackson Angella, an elder from Moroto district contends that in 1972, the region was generally hit hard by famine that forced many children to the streets to beg and work as housemaids in order to survive. Angella says many who went to the streets to beg and those involved in casual labour returned to Karamoja as businessmen operating big businesses in Matany and Moroto towns.
He argues that until now, some parents and children from the region maintain that going out to work as casual labourers or even begging can be a means to earn a living and fight poverty. He calls upon the local leaders to sensitize the community on proper ways of earning income instead of looking on as more and more children join street life.
Mark Aol Musoka, another elder from Karamoja also says street children from Karamoja come mainly from Napak district in the sub-counties of Lopei, Matany and Lokopo, which are food baskets to the region, ruling out the fact that the children go to the streets due to food insecurity. He notes that the issue of street children in Napak should first be investigated to find out why children end up on the streets even with the watchful eyes of their parents and leaders.
The leaders were responding to a motion moved by Napak Woman MP Faith Nakut, who asked the government to remove Karimojong children off the streets where they have reduced to beggars. She said the practice is unacceptable in Karimojong culture and correct solutions should be sought by the respective authorities of Napak and Karamoja at large.
Elders also want child traffickers to be severely punished in order to deter them from trafficking children with impunity. The government has on several occasions tried to rehabilitate and resettle Karimojong children from Kampala to their home districts but on all occasions, the children have found their way back to the streets of Kampala according to the district leaders.
John Paul Detex Kodet, the Napak district chairperson says his predecessors have been working with Cooperation and Development NGO to rehabilitate Karimojong street children but they have always gone back to the streets of Kampala.
“C&D has been working to rehabilitate and support children rescued from the streets but as we speak, nearly all of them have gone back to the streets. Even those taken to school dropped out to live on the streets,” he said in an interview with URN.
Moroto district chairperson David Koriang, however, said that insecurity, high poverty levels and food insecurity are key drivers pushing children out of homes.
Michael Lokawa, an opinion leader from Tapac in Moroto district wants the government to empower communities on household income such that street children rehabilitated will not return to the streets.
According to a report of 2005, more than three quarters of the street children in Kampala and other towns are Karimojong and their influx is growing every year.