OPINION: Karamoja Mines Full of Empty Promises for Child Miners

By: Phillo Aryatwijuka

The question of the increase of child labor in mining in Karamoja region has for long been kept in the background despite Uganda having in place the child Labor policy 2006 and the National Action Plan  for the elimination of Child Labor which focuses on operationalizing the policy.

Ugandan government has gone a step ahead to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) and UN conventions pertaining to child labor and streamlined these in national legislation such as the Employment Act, symptoms the National Constitution and the Children’s Act.

Despite this, information pills child labor in mining is currently on the rise across all regions in Uganda.

According to the recent report “No Golden Future” published by Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations in April 2016, the number of children gold miners was estimated between 10,000 to 15,000 across gold mines in Uganda in some of the rich mineral districts like Moroto, Mubende Namayingo, Buhweju etc.

The International Labor Organization categorizes mining as hazardous work to children and defines it as worst form of child labor.

In Karamoja one visit at a gold or marble mining site you will be amazed by the number of children at any one mining site involved in mining activities from digging tunnels, shoveling the soil, panning to a little boy of as young as 5 years fetching water.

The question now remains what kind of sustainable future do we expect to create for these exploited children who have dropped out of school for just a little day pay?


It’s clear that child labor will have devastating effects on Karamoja’s development if quick measures are not put forward to restrain it.

Food insecurity has been singled out as one of the leading causes of child labor and high school drop outs in Karamoja despite universal primary education (UPE).

This food insecurity is further reflected in the recent August 2016 analysis report issued by Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) which indicates that 16 percent will be stressed [5, 958, 155] while 1 percent [390, 165] most of whom are from Karamoja sub-region will be faced with food crisis.

The food insecurity question again clearly stood out during the recent mapping on child labor in mining conducted by Ecological Christian Organization (ECO) in gold and marble rich Rupa and Katikekile Sub County in Moroto district.

Children clearly emphasized that they go to the mines to get money to buy food, pay school fees, scholastic materials and other needs since UPE comes with other additional costs.

In the same regard the plight of the girl child is highly at risk because of the dangers eminent at the mining sites most of which are characterized by alcoholism thus increasing chances of early pregnancies, HIV/AIDs and rape and defilement.

Without question the government needs to holistically tackle child labor in Karamoja mining sector, actions on ensuring food security of families, provision of alternative livelihoods, enforcing legal provisions, raising awareness and providing comprehensive education support for children including meals without any additional costs is key.

In addition there is need to ascertain the exact number and working conditions of children involved in mining in Uganda.

The writer is a Program Officer at Ecological Christian Organisation (ECO)

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