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Judiciary, Local Governments Accused of Persistently Ignoring Children's Rights

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Magistrates, State Prosecutors and the police in Masindi are under fire for allegedly failing to protect children.
Charles Nteiraho, chairperson of the Masindi education committee, says the entire judicial system does not favor children, particularly girls. He claims that suspected defilers are let off the hook without trial and repeat sexual offenders are allowed to continue their jobs in schools.
Nteiraho gives the example of Hosea Kiiza, the headmaster of Mihembero Primary School in Bwijanga sub-county. He says Kiiza is accused of defiling six of his students this year and yet nothing has been done to conclusively investigate the case.
In a presentation he made to the Masindi District Council on Thursday, Nteiraho said Hosea Kiiza was released without charge and he is back at his duty station.
The council was outraged to hear the report from the education committee. It recommended the immediate investigation of the headmaster and other suspects who have been freed by the police or the courts without trial.
Criticism of the State's failure to protect children is also a concern on the other side of the country in Jinja.
Child rights organizations there say that neither the district local government authorities nor the police are doing anything to cater for the welfare of children. They claim that funds set aside to provide social services, counseling and play grounds for children are either embezzled or diverted to non-essential programs.
Paul Batambuze, project officer of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect in Jinja, says most sub-counties in the district do not have Community Development Officers to handle family and child programs. He says the local government has failed in its responsibility to appoint people who can regularly coordinate child-related activities and provide professional counseling and protection for children in need.
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Justine Namusuubo a research and documentation officer at Jinja Network for Marginalized Child and Youth says that because there is no one at district level representing children's rights, many court cases involving children fall to the wayside. She says cases of defilement, incest, neglect and even child sacrifice find themselves at the bottom of the pile because judicial officers and the police are bribed to drop them.
Namusuubo says it seems that in Jinja, children are not a priority.
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The police defend themselves against this charge.
Juliet Baguma, South Eastern Regional Family Protection Officer, admits that some cases involving children are mishandled. She however says the police force is actively training its officers to ensure that any child-related cases are prioritized and given the attention they deserve.
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