Uganda has given Saudi Arabia a 60-day ultimatum to honor its demands if the bilateral labor export agreement between the two states that expired on 27th December is to be renewed.
It should be remembered that in 2017, Uganda and Saudi Arabia entered into a five-year bilateral labor export deal, which is supposed to be renewed on expiry.
However, the renewal did not take place. Instead, Uganda suspended this agreement citing continued grim mistreatment and torture of its nationals while providing labor in the gulf country.
This was confirmed on December 23rd, in a document issued by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, Aggrey David Kibenge.
Kibenge told recruitment companies and pre-departure orientation and training institutions that the agreement with Saudi Arabia which expired on 27th December had been suspended until the Saudi side fulfills Uganda’s demands in a re-negotiation effort.
“This is therefore to inform you that clearance and deployment of migrant workers, approval of job orders, and training of migrant workers under this agreement are suspended with immediate effect. Note, however, that this temporary suspension does not affect migrant workers whose travel had already been cleared by the ministry, prior to this date, and are in possession of signed contracts, travel tickets, and entry visas,” reads the document in part.
Kibenge also issued a sixty-day ultimatum to Saudi Arabia to honor Uganda’s demands for the renewal process to take center stage.
Uganda’s demands include setting up an independent commission of inquiry to probe several complaints and hardships Ugandan migrant workers go through during their daily rounds in Saudi Arabia, including allegations of physical torture, sexual abuse, denial of wages, denial of food, confiscation of their travel documents, among others.
The commission will make recommendations which must be effected by Riyadh and Kampala at an appropriate time, leading to complete renewal of the accord.
The Presidential Advisor on Diaspora Affairs, Ambassador Abbey Walusimbi noted that the Ugandan side has intensified negotiations with Riyadh to see that its demands are actualized, something that is believed would put an end to the morass of inhumane treatment of Ugandan migrant workers in the gulf state by their bosses.
He revealed that high level talks and negotiations between the Ugandan and the Saudi side are in the offing, and that in a period of not more than two weeks from now, there will be a breakthrough.
“We are keen on ensuring that in one or two weeks, everything is settled. This will not go up to February. We want to end all problems such that our citizens work under convenient conditions,” said Amb. Walusimbi.
“We also want to ensure that recuitment agencies that fly our citizens abroad follow correct procedure through the right channels, such that Ugandans work under proper treatment,” he added.
Amb. Walusimbi also clarified that the Saudi side also tabled their own demands in the re-negotiotion process, for instance; how to curtail the continued misuse of social media channels like Tiktok by Ugandan migrant workers to demonize their state.
In a similar development, Amb. Walusimbi also noted that the Ugandan side has also embarked on high level negotiations with the Eritrean government to see to it that working conditions of Ugandan workers in that state are improved.
According to data from the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, Saudi Arabia is by far Uganda’s biggest labor externalization destination state in the gulf region with 150,000 Ugandan migrant workers.
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