By Michael Odeng
When they met the mystery tycoon, he acted like an oafish billionaire. He promised them heaven on earth. He initially spent like he owned oil wells in the Middle East.
The three women who hail from Burundi knew their goose was cooked when they dropped from eating chicken to eating like chicken.
Confined in a dingy motel in Kabalagala, a city suburb, they struggled to feed. On a lucky day, their tycoon, Mohamed Qaid Ramsey, fed them chicken bones.
This was the testimony in court of three women allegedly being trafficked to Saudi Arabia through Uganda.
According to the court documents seen by The Kampala Sun, Ramsey, between April and August, 2021 at Kabalagala Central Zone, Makindye division, received, harboured, and confined the victims for the purpose of forced labour.
The victims, names withheld, were destined to fly to Saudi Arabia, but ended up in Kampala in the hands of an Arab, Ramsey who allegedly tortured them.
The victims appeared before the Makindye Court Chief Magistrate, Sarah Basemera, in a case in which Ramsey is charged with 16 counts of aggravated trafficking in persons and eight counts of promoting trafficking in persons.
Under the Prevention of the Trafficking in Persons Act 2009, the offence of trafficking in persons attracts a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment, on conviction, while promoting trafficking in persons elicits a seven-year jail term.
“Ramsey used to eat chicken and give us bones whenever we were hungry. He also drank bottled water as we quenched our thirst on tap and toilet water,” one of the victims narrated, attracting laughter from people in court.
The victims were testifying under the guidance of State Attorney Joseph Kyomuhendo.
They noted that sometimes Ramsey would give them sh10,000 to use for two days, which they say was not enough.
One of the victims told the court that in order to survive, they used the money to buy silver cyprinid (mukene) and cassava flour.
Another victim disclosed that they used to squeeze themselves on a 3X6 ft bed mattress and were made to forcefully scrub the hotel wall, wash dishes, and bedding for customers, who used the hotel without payment.
The court also heard that Ramsey, who had promised to take the victims to Saudi Arabia, confiscated their passports and demanded that they pay him $500 (sh1.8m).
“We did not have money to pay for the passports; that is why we escaped from the room and reported the matter to a nearby police station,” a victim testified.
She also revealed that Ramsey sexually harassed them.
The court heard that the victims were relocated to Kyampisi Child Care Ministries in Mukono, where they are staying.
Kyampisi is a non-government organisation that seeks to fight poverty, empower families and communities through education, bring freedom from oppression by seeking justice through advocacy and provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support to vulnerable children.
An official from the directorate of citizenship and immigration control in the Ministry of Internal Affairs told the court that they are preparing travel documents for the victims so that they are reunited with their families in Burundi.
How they entered Uganda
The victims narrated that a lady identified as Alice picked them up from Burundi after processing their passports and linked them to a man identified as Alex.
Consequently, Alex took them to Kenya and surrendered them to a man identified as Abass, who later handed them over to Ramsey, who promised to process their visas for Saudi Arabia.
Asked by the prosecution what routes they used, the victims said on reaching the border of Kenya, they used a bodaboda through a small path to enter Uganda.
Asked by the magistrate what took them long to report the matter to the Police, the victims said Ramsey had locked them up in a small room when they started demanding their passports.
The victims requested the magistrate to punish Ramsey, saying he has caused them untold suffering and psychological torture.
They are also seeking compensation because of their wasted time in the hands of Ramsey.
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Hillary Nzige maintained that the victims were lying, saying they were not destined for Saudi Arabia as claimed, but to Uganda.
Asked why she stated in her police statement that a lady identified as Alice, while in Burundi, had gotten her a job in Uganda at sh300,000 per month, the victim said a police officer who recorded the statement did not know her language.
While in court, the victims testified in their language interpreted by a Ugandan.