THURSDAY NOVEMBER 23 2017
By DAILY MONITOR
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It cannot be gainsaid that Sino-Africa relations have been improving by the day since African leaders adopted the look-East policy.
The much-hyped win-win ties between Beijing and African capitals have seen an unprecedented execution of mega infrastructure projects on the continent— including roads, bridges, malls and dams.
But it emerges that the Chinese boom has come with its share of pain, especially for African women and girls.
In Uganda’s Oyam District, for instance, over a dozen women are struggling to raise children sired by Chinese nationals after the fathers abandoned them.
According to Kamdini chairperson Sam Ogwang Alunyu, they have documented 20 children in the sub-county that were fathered by Chinese workers.
Jacqueline Adero, 20, a resident of Arukolong, Zambia Parish, is one of them.
Adero says a Chinese national, identified only as Yahang, fathered her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
Yahang, she says, was as an employees of Sinohydro Construction Company that is constructing Karuma dam.
Sinohydro is a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction company that has won tenders for multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects across Africa.
Adero recounts that in 2015, she went to Karuma to look for a menial job but ended up in a relationship with Yahang who promised to marry her and take her to China.
Ms Adero’s hopes to marry Yahang soon faded when she realised that her boyfriend was returning to china without her.
Five months pregnant and unable to work anymore, Adero returned to her village frustrated.
“I couldn’t believe he was returning to China for good yet I carried his five-month pregnancy at the time,” she says.
“I just returned home in disappointment to manage my pregnancy, broke as I was.”
Her mother Sophia Kolo says attempts to find out who was responsible for the pregnancy were futile until Adero delivered at Aber Hospital a year ago.
“We asked about it in vain, not until the clan council sat her down but she only said it was a fellow worker from Mukono,” she narrates.
“But we were shocked finally when she delivered a Chinese baby girl.”
It is difficult, the woman says, to raise the mixed-race child because she is allergic to most local foods.
“She only feeds on biscuits and soft drinks and when we serve her local dishes, he develops rashes all over her body.”
Adero’s father Alfred Kolo wants Sinohydro to intervene and link him up with his son-in-law.
“I am just a peasant and unable to raise…this child,” he says.
“It is very expensive to meet her medical needs and feed her considering the diet she requires… Her real father has to come in and support.”
Mwa Otiratok clan chief Patrick Okello says they will file a formal complaint with the Sinohydro management.
“We have a law in our culture which demands that you either marry that girl or compensate for damages and time lost because of the pregnancy,” he says.
“It is on this basis that we will demand the company to produce these workers who have abandoned our daughters with their children.”
Separately, Dr Richard Nam, the Lango Cultural Foundation prime minister, says they are planning to negotiate with the management of Sinohydro on how the women could be supported.
“It is our culture that once you impregnate our daughter and decline to marry her, you pay compensation for damages and upkeep of your offspring. This is what we want to make clear to them,” Dr Nam says.
“They (Chinese) should help these poor girls to raise these children. We shall sit and negotiate with them but when this fails, legal measures will be taken.”
When the Daily Monitor contacted Sinohydro, they referred us to Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL).
UEGCL corporate affairs manager Simon Kasyate said petitioning Sinohydro over the fate of fatherless children may not bear fruit.
“Sex at Karuma is being traded on the basis of willing buyer and willing seller. These girls knew that these Chinese nationals have a lot of money that they would milk,” he says.
Alunyu, the Kamdini sub-County chairperson, says, on several occasions, they have written to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to intervene but they have received no response.
Alunyu says cases of prostitution and defilement have been on the rise in the region wracked by abject poverty.
“The level of sexually transmitted infections has increased because young girls and married women are trading sex and this has resulted into divorce, domestic violence and many other crimes,” he says.
As the elders seek to engage Sinohydro, the Chinese babies are asking for more biscuits and soft drinks.
Additional reporting by Harry Misiko