Global March Against Child Labour, WAO-Afrique, Regional Coordination of Francophone Africa for Global March and partners in Togo have welcomed the sentences handed down to five child traffickers last week. The trials marked the first application of a law adopted in August 2005 against the trafficking of children.
"The most important thing for us is the strong message that the government wants to send to traffickers, which is tell them that impunity is no longer acceptable in the face of this phenomenon (trafficking) in Togo," said Cléophas Mally, WAO-Afrique and Regional Coordinator, Francophone Africa for Global March Against Child Labour.
Four of the five traffickers were tried by court in the northern town of Kara. Soulé Lamania was sentenced to a fixed-term imprisonment of 18 months for having taken five children to Nigeria, while Anaheri Kasso was sentenced to 12 months in prison (five suspended) and a fine of about 2,000 dollars for trafficking three children. Yamba Kodjo was ordered to pay some 600 dollars for having taken the children of his sister to Nigeria, after having said that he was transporting them to a village. This money will be used to repatriate the children. The fourth trafficker tried in Kara, Pascal Bayobda, was found guilty of rape and of procuring a 14-year-old - and received a suspended, 12-month jail term. Simultaneously, a court in Sokodé found Issa Ousoumanou Oukenini guilty of trafficking five children to Nigeria - and sentenced him to fixed imprisonment of two years.
Under the 'United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish the Trafficking of Persons', trafficking is viewed as encompassing a broad range of activities that result in people being used "for an improper purpose", such as forced labour and sexual exploitation. (The protocol was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000.)
Thousands of these cases occur in West Africa, where children are trafficked within their countries or to neighbouring states - girls often to work as domestics, and boys as agricultural
labourers.Widespread poverty paves the way for trafficking, making parents and children alike susceptible to the promises of traffickers.
Under the 2005 law, those responsible for the trafficking of children and their accomplices may receive prison sentences of a month to five years, and fines of 1,000 to 20,000 dollars.
The law has also tightened up on the departure of children from Togo. Special authorisation from a court is now required to take a child who not accompanied by its parents or guardian out of the country.
or several years now, "comités de vigilance" (vigilance committees) have been put in place to raise awareness of the dangers of trafficking and, keep track of children likely to be targeted and the traffickers themselves.
Global March Against Child Labour and partner organizations in Togo have been trying to get the law implemented. Global March and partners have also played an important role in the adoption of the anti-trafficking law.