Ugandan Ex-Iraqi Guards Cry Foul Over Alleged Exploitation

IRAQ Photos 1
By Joseph Elunya
Ugandan private security guards returning home from Iraq are complaining of exploitation.
More than 15,000 Ugandans have since 2007 been hired to offer guard duties to American companies in Iraq. Some of the companies that have hired the services of Ugandan security guards include Askar Security Services, Watertight Security Services and Rashak Security Services. In total there are 24 registered companies from Uganda that recruits security guards for the external labour market in the Middle East.
Originally working as a guard in Iraq was seen by most Ugandans as a ‘goldmine’ because of the package that those who went there came back home with in the early years. In the past Ugandan guards were paid more than $1500 but this has since changed and returnees now tell stories of unfavorable working conditions and poor pay.
29-year-old, Godfrey Musoke is one of the returnees; he served in Iraq for two years and returned back home in December 2012.
“I was among the 1000 guards that were recruited by Rashak Security Services in 2009 after a three months training to work as a guard in Iraq. When we reached there we were deployed to guard American owned supermarkets and our work involved ensuring that no one enters with a dangerous weapon. We check thoroughly to ensure that no one enters with either a bomb or firearm” Musoke said their work also involved scanning vehicles for explosives.
Unfavorable working conditions
“It was very risky there, we could work for ten hours, right from the time when you are taken to work at 8am in the morning, you are expected to stand without sitting down up to 6pm when they come to pick you, to take you back to the camp” Musoke says the bullet proof body harmer worsens the situation because of the weight yet they are not allowed to rest for the ten hours that they are deployed to guard the supermarkets.
“They (Rashak Security Services) were mistreating us, The Americans would give them more than $5000 to pay us but the company that sent us to work there would almost take everything. They would only deposit $500 with Crane Bank Uganda” Musoke said they would only get access to the money after expiration of their contract.
Life after Iraq
“When I came back to Uganda in December 2012, I tried to do business of dealing in produce by buying rice from Mbale in eastern Uganda and transporting it to the capital Kampala but the business failed after six months. I had problems the people who were transporting for him the produce were over charging for the trucks and soon I was out of business” Musoke who now operates a motorcycle taxi business said that some of his friends who ventured into hardware business are doing quite well.
According to Musoke those who are doing well served in Iraq, before 2010 when the salaries were still high unlike today when they are earning only $500.
Musoke’s story is not different from that of other Ugandan guards who have little to show for the risky job they carried out in Iraq.
Effort to get a comment from Razak Security firm was not possible as it has since closed shop and was not among the registered companies.
Local Authorities React
“There is an increasing number of Ugandan women and men who have reported to be undergoing abuse and exploitation in a number of foreign countries. They recruit people without getting a license from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development and their operation in shrouded in secrecy” Remarked Moses Binoga the Coordinator of Uganda’s Anti-human Trafficking National Taskforce.
“Most of the people who have been recruited by such companies have ended up being defrauded of their money” Officer Binoga said the companies make adverts in the media and lure unsuspecting youths with promises of better paying jobs but they ended up being defrauded.
Uganda faces a problem of youths unemployment, a recent study by the International Labour Organization put the number at five percent while those between the age bracket of 18-24 stands at more than 80 percent.
The high employment rate forces most graduates to try their luck in the Middle East countries where they are employed as guards and maids.

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