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By Mulengera Reporters

Children Affairs Minister Nakiwala Kiyingi has demanded action being taken against the top leadership of Watoto Church Ministries with ISO commencing investigations into some of the organization’s activities related to children. But Esther Nakalema, one of the Watoto Ministries publicists, says they aren’t worried because everything they do is in the open and fully complies with the laws of Uganda.

In making her case against Watoto Children Ministries, Nakiwala herself a devout Catholic, says the way hundreds of children under Watoto Ministries are treated doesn’t comply with the relevant laws of Uganda. She wants ISO to probe claims that the orphans the Church receives are eventually used to fundraise millions of dollars from wealthy phillanthropists in US, Canada, America and Malaysia. She wants proof that this fundraising proceeds 100% benefit these children.

She specifically faults Watoto Ministries for not complying with laws governing children adoption for those who become financially vulnerable as a result of being orphaned. That the laws of Uganda require clearance from her Ministry before any guardian or foster parent of the child can take him or her abroad but Watoto has been skipping this vital requirement while taking children abroad.

According to Bukedde newspaper, Nakiwala wants ISO to probe into this to establish the truth behind it. Nakiwala is specific about the children, 48 of them, who as Watoto Choir members continue to be stranded in America, Brazil, New Zealand and Malaysia as a result of the world wide COVID-related lockdown. These are split into 4 choirs each comprising of 12 children on top of the 40 women who travelled with them as care givers.

Nakiwala claims government has received reports that some of these children are taken abroad for improper motives that run counter to the rules of public policy in Uganda. It’s the reason, she says, ISO has been directed to have wide-ranging investigations into the activities of the powerful Watoto Church Ministries some of whose prominent members are coimcidentally key Ministers in Museveni’s government.

The wealthy church institution has prayer branches and points at Buganda/Bombo road in Kampala, Kisaasi, Bweyogerere, Lubowa, Kyengera and Gulu. The Watoto Ministries also has model children homes in Bulagga Biira along Mityana Road, Ssuubi Children’s Home and another in Gulu called Laminadera.

Nakiwala says it’s in order for ISO to carry out comprehensive investigations to enable government deepen it’s understanding into the workings of such a powerful organization. All this scrutiny and public curiosity about Watoto resulted from the recent COVID-related development that saw 11 Watoto Children Choir members return with Coronavirus. They were returning from UK and Nakiwala now wants to understand why Watoto bosses send children on singing trips abroad at a time they are supposed to be at school.

She for instance wonders why the 12 children in Malaysia have been there since October last year and were only slated to return in March but were unable to do so because the President locked down the country making it impossible for them to fly back. Nakiwala is convinced this clearly shows the Watoto Ministries leadership doesn’t care about these youngsters missing the school calendar back home in Uganda. She is optimistic all these concerns will be clarified in the ISO report.

Nakiwala is also puzzled as to why children are made to remain under the Watoto custody and care even after clocking 18 years. That on becoming 18, they are encouraged to marry amongst themselves, something ISO must inquire into to establish whether these are well consented marriages or conscriptions. That legally once the child becomes 18, the guardian is supposed to let them go which isn’t happening in the case of those under the Watoto Ministries care. Nakiwala wants to understand why this is the case.

That Watoto even takes up these children without first securing a license from government for each child as required. That they only have license to care for only 84 children and Nakiwala wants ISO to confirm if this number isn’t exceeded. But Esther Nakalema arrays such fears as expressed by Nakiwala by wondering how their children would be travelling so often to countries which have very stringent visa requirements if indeed there was any non-compliance with the country’s laws. According to state-owned Bukedde newspaper, ISO has limited time within which to conduct the required investigations and submit a report to guide subsequent remedial action and steps by government.

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