The Territorial Police in KMP North in coordination with Nabweru police are investigating the alleged disappearance and suspected kidnap of 5-year-old, Nansamba Zahra Muwonge, a pupil at Nabweru Community Nursery and Primary School, which occurred on the 17.02.2023 at around 7:20pm, from Nabweru North I, Nansana Division in Wakiso district. The matter was reported to police by the father of the victim, Muwonge Baker, aged 32. The facts gathered so far indicate that the mother of the victim, Nankya Sopia, left her playing at home with her two siblings ager 2 and 7, at around 6:30pm, as she went to buy for them snacks nearby. After 30 minutes she returned and found her daughter missing. She alerted residents and an immediate search was conducted, but all in vain.

As a result, the matter was reported to Nabweru police station and the area CCTV cameras reviewed. The victim was seen moving with a woman, along the Nabweru – Bwaise road in the direction of Kafunda zone, in Nabweru South. We strongly believe the victim should still be in the areas of Nabweru, Nansana, Bwaise, Katooke and Kawempe. A serious search for the 5-year-old victim but we also call upon anyone, who is hiding or keeping the victim, to hand her over in good faith.

The alleged disappearance/child kidnap shows how children are still vulnerable and under threat. We continue to receive complaints of children missing due to kidnap either for money or other non-monetary reasons. Right now, we cannot imagine what the victim is going through, but we would like to reassure the parents, that we are doing everything within our means to trace and recover the victim.

We would also like to use this opportunity to share tips that can help reduce the chances of our children falling victim to disappearances and child kidnaps. Although it can be very difficult to detect that a child kidnap is occurring or prevent it from happening, there are ways to become more aware of the risks and interventions that can help protect our child or other children in your community from potential harm.

• Pay attention;

– To any new individuals you have never seen before hanging around places where children play like compounds, backyards, playgrounds.

– If you notice a young child on their own or crying or fighting, get involved and call the police or accompany them to safety. See if their parents are nearby or call police or a child welfare officer at the LC or probation.

– If you notice an adult is trying to take a child away from a public place or children’s area, and you suspect something is not right, get involved. By simply drawing attention to the situation, it may be enough to stop a child abduction in progress.

– Pay attention to any news and alerts of recent child kidnap attempts in your area.

– Be aware of any individual playing an unusual amount of attention to your child or children in your community.

– Establish the police hotspots of child predators and perpetrators.

– If you child tells you about someone they met and felt uncomfortable – report the matter to police. While your child made the right decision in telling you, the next child may not feel like they can tell a safe adult and may be victimized as a result.

– Pay attention to your child when it distress and seek help.

If you have concerns outlined above, alert the police immediately. Provide complete description of the individuals and any vehicle they are using, including the licence plate number of the vehicle.

• Tech your child how to stay safe.

– Do not talk to strangers, is an old strategy that has become outdated and ineffective in reducing risk of child kidnap and abduction. The reality is that many child kidnaps are committed by people who are known to the child, and therefore, not considered a “stranger” in the traditional sense.

– Individuals seeking to kidnap a child often present as “friendly” and act “nicely” towards the child, in order to gain their acceptance and increase the likelihood that the child will go with them willingly. Therefore, its more effective to teach children not to go anywhere with anyone, without first getting permission from their parents. This strategy reinforces the children that the duty of supervision lies with parents as apposed to leaving it up to the children to assess the motives of individuals.

• What children need to know

a) For children ages 4 – 6 years.

– Teach your child that they must always have parental permission before going anywhere with anyone.

– Teach your child to always have a friend with them when they are going in places.

– Teach your child active resistance skills, like shouting, kicking, biting or screaming, if anyone other than you, physically tries to take them somewhere. SHOUT NO.

– Teach your child what to do if they are lost. Like sit down in one place and call out for the parent

– Teach your child never to leave with someone else other than who they came with, if lost in a public place, shopping centre or play area.

– Teach children, they must have parental permission before going anywhere with someone.

• For children ages 7 – 8 years

– Reinforce all the above tips, like have parental permission before going anywhere and that they should have a friend with them when going in places.

– Teach your child to trust their instincts i.e feelings inside them that warn them of danger and the need to be aware of their surroundings.

– Teach your child that if any one makes them feel uncomfortable, they must immediately come talking to you.

– As children get older, they need to practice assertive behavior. Children also need to know how and when to tell a safe adult, if someone has broken their boundaries.

– Keep a very close eye on your child while the two of you are out in the public places because its easy to lose sight on your child. Be sure to discuss a safety plan with your child for what they should do if they become separate from you.

• Practice scenarios with your child. Ask them what they would do if…

Ø Someone approaches them on the street for direction.

Ø Someone asks them to help find their puppy or dog.

Ø Someone says that their mother sent them to pick them up

Ø Someone tries to pull them into a car or bodaboda

Ø They find themselves alone and considering walking home alone.

• For Children ages 9 – 11 years

– All previous safety strategies, should be reinforced with thus age group.

– If your child is going out with friends to the mall, shopping, movies or party, make sure your child and their friends transportation to and from the location is organized. Also make sure that you are available while your child is out, in case they need to call you. Discuss with your child what they should do, if they become separate from their friends while they are out.

– At this age, children should also be taught about how to stay safe. When they are at home alone, not opening the door or telling anyone in the house when home alone; not letting anyone know that you will be home alone, making sure all emergency and contact numbers are placed by the telephone; and not to hesitate to phone parents if needed.

– Talk openly with your child about safety and begin to talk about different types of lures adults may use to gain the trust of children. Frequently, to through possible scenarios with your child involving different types of lures an adult might use to gain the trust of a child, including offering gifts, asking for help, saying there is an emergency, claiming to be an authority figure, using flattery etc, to help your child understand, how to respond to these types of situations.

– If your child is going to a friend’s house, have them call or text you when they have arrived at house or have their friends’ parents call you when your child has arrived. When your child is returning home from their friend’s house, get them to let you know they are on the way from the house. Know the appropriate distance and time it takes to get from one hose to the other.

Teach your child that if they are physically grabbed, to actively resist by screaming, hitting, biting, kicking and try to attract people’s attention to what is going on.

• For children ages 12 to13 years.

– As children are entering their teen years, they should still be reminded of safety strategies above like getting parental permission before going anywhere with anyone, its still important for them to bring a buddy along when going places, they need to continue to listen and trust their instincts; and they need to continue to practice assertive behavior.

– Teach your child to anticipate potentially dangerous situations – use “what if” scenarios to provide your child with opportunities to practice responding safely to these situation eg, “what if someone came up to you, said you were pretty, claimed to be a modeling agent and wanted you to come with them?

– Teach your child the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship.

– If your child wants too meet an online friend in person, arrange to speak with the parent of the online friend. Together, you and the other parent can make plans for the children to meet with both of you present.

• For children ages 14 and older

– Continue to teach your child assertinesses skills. Use “what if” scenarios to help them anticipate possible situations e.g “what if you met someone online that wanted to meet you in person? Find natural opportunities to enforce assertinessess skills and safety strategies, and discuss your child’s increased independence and how they might reduce the risk of being harmed.

– Continue to teach your child the importance of sticking together with friends, when they go out in the evenings, or partying. Remind them of the importance of getting friends to agree before hand not to leave any friend behind when they leave. Explain to your child that part of being a good friend is looking out for each other and not leaving a friend vulnerable to victimization.

– When your adolescent goes out for the evening, they need a transportation plan in place to ensure that they will get home safely. By ensuring that your child and their friends have appropriate transportation to and from a place, that no one is left on their own to get home, and that nobody walks home alone, everyone is much safer.

– Ask your teen to text you when they arrive at their destination, change plans or decide to stay over at a friend’s place.

– Tell your adolescents to call you if they need help. As some point, your child may find themselves in a difficult or bad situation that hey do not know how to get out of. Tell your child to phone you if they find themselves in such a situation, so that you can come to their rescue. Reassure your child that they will not get in trouble for calling you. Tell them that you will deal with things the next day. Keep in mind that you need to mean it. Letting your child know that they can phone you, acts as a very important safety net, especially if your child is in a compromising or dangerous situation.

– Talk to your adolescent about the difference between healthy relationships and controlling relationships. If an adolescents first serious dating relationship is controlling, it can negatively impact their development as well as create risks to their safety.

• More safety a habit

During times of crisis we are often reminded about the importance of teaching children about personal safety. As adults, we often shy away from teaching children about sexual abuse and abduction, feeling we will frighten them. Safety education helps build a child’s confidence and critical thinking skills, and prepare them for dangerous situations that they may encounter.

Source: Uganda Police Force