By Mbabazi Hanning
Makindye court Grade one magistrate Jude Okumu Muwone has Thursday afternoon adjourned the hearing of the Drone Media Journalist, Pidson Kareire Middle East Consultants Ltd to Friday 14 June 2019 at 9am.
Kareire was arrested on Wednesday from his office located at Old Kampala over allegations of criminal defamation by Middle East Consultants, a labor exporting company, for allegedly publishing a story on their online news media about how Ugandan youth were being conned of their hard earned money and not given the jobs they apply for with the company.
However,his Lawyer Daniel Walyemera argued that he was not satisfied with the decision by court to remand him to Luzira, although he and his client (Kareire) are equipped with all evidence and ready to proceed in fighting ‘this impunity and criminality in the exploitative labour exportation Industry’. “We have all evidence pinning Middle East Consultancy and we are ready to fight such injustices. Many of our brothers and sisters taken abroad are suffering in the Gulf only that they lack voices to speak out for them. Others have lost their lives helplessly, and some mutilated by black market organ harvesters. Our brothers and sisters are sold into slavery; most of them have gone on fake contracts. What is promised here after robbing millions from them is not what most Ugandans are offered by companies that take them to Arabia for employment.” Walyemera fumed soon after the magistrate adjourned.
He added that “Those guys (Middle East) get like 10 jobs abroad but advertise like 1000 slots, so they will invite 1000 applicants and each will pay like shs300k x1000 applicants….. So they know for sure they have ten slots but knowingly advertise 1000! That’s receiving money by false pretense and conning people. This journalist has evidence from complainants; some went abroad only to be given odd jobs different from those they applied for. He has been interviewing victims. Now Middle East is simply trying to threaten with these arrests, thinking they can shut him down.”
Walyemera called upon journalists with fortuitousness and awful behaviors that are cheaply bribed to die with such facts unpublished to public awareness to wake up and be fair to fellow Ugandans, since journalism is a call to speaking for the voiceless.
Middle East Consultants Limited has been in the news for bad reasons. They are accused of employing people who allegedly extort money from desperate Ugandans with promises that they are to secure them good jobs in the Middle East but this ends up as lies, which demoralizes the job seekers. For instance, one of the latest cases was the March 2019 story reported in the media that managers of the company had accepted liability and refunded money or made commitment to pay it back, after failing to find jobs for clients turned victims by the company. Those tracking the company’s activities say that conning of clients/victims still continues as much as it exports some labour. But despite allegedly cheating clients, it is reported that more desperate youth are flocking the company in the hope of securing jobs abroad and some of the money collected from the fresh recruits is used to compensate the old ones who demand their money after failing to get the jobs they applied for. Analysts say this could be the reason why the company is advertising all the time. Their aim could be not to get jobs for Ugandans but to cheat them of the hard-earned money.
One of the victims, Mr. Kyaligonza, secured a loan from a local bank and injected the money in the country in return for a job in the U.A.E. On the appointed day, after passing the interviews, he proceeded to Equity Bank and paid USD1500 (about Shs5.5m) on the company’s A/C 100220069 5532. According to Sunday Monitor, Middle East Consultants officials reportedly told him his visa would be ready in five days. On the same day, On September 4, 2018, the company asked Kyaligonza to pay more money through one of its workers, a one Sarah Ninsiima, to process his travel papers. He paid to Ninsiima Shs500, 000 for verification of his Advanced Certificate of Education, Shs300, 000 for Interpol (Certificate of Good Conduct), Shs100, 000 for the “Yellow Book” [Yellow Fever card]. The monies above were said to be way above the official government fees. Between October and December, 2018, Kyaligonza regularly travelled from Fort Portal in Kabarole district to Muyenga in Kampala to check on the progress of his travel papers. Each time he was promised things would work out, including undertaking fresh interviews for other jobs in Abu Dhabi.
By December 15, Kyaligonza had had enough of the unfulfilled promises and started demanding a refund. The general manager, Benon Kunywana, sent Kyaligonza to the company’s accounts office where he was given refund forms. He was informed that he could only get a refund after 35 to 45 days. The journalists who saved Kyaligonza say they presented Kyaligonza’s case to Middle East Consultants managing director Gordon Mugyenyi on January 25, who referred them to Kunywana to deal with the issue. “We informed him that we were in the process of publishing the story and that we needed his response to the allegations. He asked us not to publish the story, saying Kyaligonza’s money would be refunded. We decided to hold the story until Kyaligonza, who was in hiding from his debtors, was paid his money,” the story reads. After pressure mounted, THE Sunday Monitor reports, Kyaligonza was eventually refunded his USD1500 and the Shs900, 000 that he had paid to the company. But all the money he’d spent in pursuing his refund was not refunded and he has had to contend with interest on the loan he took. This is how Middle East Consultants operate, despite running several advertisements in the main stream media as well as social media. “Government should just de-register such companies,” one of the victims we talked to, said.