Montgomery County prosecutor prepares for new role fighting human trafficking in Africa

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Prosecutor Tyler Dunman enjoys his last few days at the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. He has resigned to take a position with the Human Trafficking Institute in Uganda.

By Beth O’Brien, reporting for Bluebonnet News of Montgomery County

Tyler Dunman’s last day as a prosecutor in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is Oct. 11. Dunman is preparing for a move to Kampala, Uganda, to take a position with the Human Trafficking Institute.

“For the last, I guess, three years or so, my wife and I have had a number of opportunities to do some mission work in different parts of the world – Haiti and several countries in Africa,” Dunman said. “Our belief is to share the gospel and the love of Jesus with the world. That’s what the Bible says. That’s what we believe. Obviously you can do that with your neighbor across the street, but you can also do it with people who are in different countries.”

Dunman said he and his wife had been praying about God using them, wondering if there was an opportunity for full-time mission work. Last October, when they were in Uganda, through some connections he made a contact with an official who works in the prosecution office.

“We begin having a conversation that ultimately led to him saying, ‘Hey, you should check out the Human Trafficking Institute; they partner with us, ’” Dunman said.

When Dunman got back to the U.S., he began researching the organization, and around April of this year, the Institute posted a job for Special Counsel in Uganda. They wanted a prosecutor, someone with human trafficking experience.

“In my mind, that was God saying here’s your opportunity that you’ve been praying for, and whether or not, will you be obedient in that,” Dunman said.

Dunman applied, went through the interview process and was offered the position several months ago. Feeling that he was following the path that God set out for him, Dunman accepted.

He is excited that he’ll be able to use his experience in Montgomery County and across Texas to help Uganda by being an expert on the ground and developing tactics to put criminals in jail.

Human trafficking is a big issue in Uganda, just like here, he said.

“Obviously it’s more pervasive [in Uganda] and it’s more difficult to attack because of the poverty issues and the issues that come in a developing country with the structure, the infrastructure, the criminal justice structure that they have there,” he said.

Uganda, like many countries, has devoted resources to the issue, but the country is still far behind on how to attack it. Dunman hopes that is where he will be able to provide some expertise and assistance.

“They have domestic cases where kids, just like here, are forced to engage in sexual acts or forced labor, slavery,” Dunman said. “They also have international cases where Ugandan citizens are exploited, through kind of a recruiting process. Companies, often not legitimate, will come into Uganda from the Middle East or from India, places around the world, and kind of make offers to Ugandans that if you come work in our country, we’ll give you all this money, we’ll pay for your school, we’ll do all these things.”

To someone who is suffering from intense poverty, as many Ugandans are, they will jump at that opportunity, get into that country, and find the circumstances are a lot different than promised, he said.

“They’re actually not paid, they’re forced to be a slave, essentially, and that could be in labor or it could be a forced sex-type situation, so it’s very tragic,” Dunman said. “There’s a lot of education awareness that has to happen, and a lot of victim services that are needed, so hopefully as the country puts more effort into it, we can begin to fight some of that back.”

As Dunman prepares for his new role in Uganda, he says goodbye to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. He started at the DA’S office in 2007 after he was hired by former DA Mike McDougal. Brett Ligon was then elected the new DA and took office in 2009.

“I was very excited to be a part of his team. He came in with just some amazing vision and a view of what he wanted this office to be, just professionalism and integrity, so much of what he has done,” Dunman said. “I’ve been very fortunate to work my way through the office, holding a number of positions, spending time in public integrity for a while and vehicular crimes cases that I’ve been real passionate about.”

Dunman said leaving is bittersweet.

“The last several years, I’ve really had this opportunity to engage in the physical and sexual abuse of children and exploitation, internet crimes and human trafficking. It’s been a nice path here at the office, and it is bittersweet. I love it here,” he said. “District Attorney Brett Ligon is an amazing person to work with and for, and his passion is unmatched for victims and doing the right thing.”

Dunman said it’s hard to walk away from a place that you enjoy.

“[The DA] knows and I know this is a great opportunity for me at this stage in my life, and the likelihood of being back here in the County is great, when that time comes,” Dunman said.

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