5 January 2016
- From the sectionAfrica
From the Link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35220869
During his November visit to Africa, the continent which now counts nearly 200m Roman Catholics, Pope Francis said that children were some of the greatest victims of Africa’s historical exploitation by other powers. He also urged young Africans to resist corruption. But should the Vatican be doing more to put its own house in order? A BBC investigation has uncovered evidence that church land in Uganda is being used for child labour.
Alex Turyaritunga has first-hand experience of child exploitation, albeit of a more extreme kind.
“I was a child soldier, nothing can take that away from my memory,” he tells the BBC. “I remember the war in 1994. I had a gun around my shoulder.”
Today, Mr Turyaritunga is a nurse with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Uganda.
He was raised in Kabale, a town nestled in the hills of south-west Uganda. Standing on the hillside, children play in Rwandan schoolyards on the other side of the steep inclines of Kabale.
But in the mid-1990s, during the time of the Rwandan genocide, it was the sound of war that echoed across the border.
Child labour is without doubt a big issue in Uganda, where the UN estimates that there are three million child workers. The latest figures estimate that 30% of children aged between five and 14 are engaged in child labour, despite 14 being the earliest age where it is legal for a child to work.
When we arrived in Kabale, we were introduced to a supervisor at the enterprise who spoke to us on the condition that we kept his identity secret.
The supervisor told us that children did work on the farm.
Their pay ranged from 1,000 Ugandan shillings (20p; $0.30) to 2,000 Ugandan shillings per day.
The supervisor said that the land was owned by the Roman Catholic Church but it was in business with the supervisor’s employer: Kigezi Highland Tea Limited.
When the BBC team visited the farm there were up to 15 children working along with adults from the local community.
Their work consisted of gathering young tea plants stacked at the bottom of a steep hill and carrying them up the steep hill to the location of the desired point of cultivation. Children were also tasked with weeding the rows of tea plants.
In an effort to determine exactly who owned the plantation, we went to the local land registry and sought proof that the land belonged to the Church.