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Parliament Rejects Proposal to Grant Refugees’ Children Citizenship

Parliament has rejected a proposal by its Human Rights Committee seeking to grant refugees children born in Uganda citizenship.

This followed a recommendation voiced by Agnes Taaka Wejuli, the Committee’s chairperson while tabling a committee report on Monday May 10, 2021.

“The committee recommends that the children of refugees born in Uganda should be granted citizenship and should be registered at birth as Ugandans,” Taaka noted.

The suggestion attracted a heated discussion both from a section of opposition and ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) legislators.

Commenting on the matter, Mukono South Member of Parliament (MP) Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga (NRM) said the unregulated integration of refugees is dangerous and might alienate native Ugandans in the long run.

“This country is well known for accommodating many refugees, as we speak now, there are hundreds and hundreds of Sudanese, Congolese, people from Burundi and Rwanda. The moment we grant that, it will be another outlet to allow these refugees purchase land,” Ssenyonga pointed.

Adding: “When you come to Mukono in the Seeta area, the Sudanese have their independent villages and even have a special service for refugees. Why am I saying this, many refugees come with loads of money so it is easy for them to buy off the poor peasants and at the end of the day we are going to lose. Let refugees remain refugees.”

On his part, James Waluswaka the Bunyole South MP (NRM) intimated that this can only work in cases where those particular children are sired by a Ugandan male.

“The issue of citizenship of refugees, right now Kenya is closing up refugee camps and now for us Uganda, you say immediately a refugee gets pregnant, the child is automatically a Ugandan. Maybe Madam Chair, I would only accept if a Ugandan male impregnated a refugee, that child can be a Ugandan but if it’s refugees to refugees, no,” he submitted.

The raging debate on the refugee question sucked in Speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga who outright referred to the proposition as problematic and ordered it to be deleted from the report.

“I was equally bothered by that recommendation because it means that their fathers remain refugees and they themselves are Ugandans. Refugees are supposed to return to their own countries when things are better,” Kadaga intimated.

Adding: “So it is dangerous and I wanted to share with you what the United Arab Emirates does. UAE the, Emirates, even if you are born there; you don’t become an Emirati. That is to ensure that their population is intact. That recommendation is problematic.”

This debate is likely to provoke the ire of President Yoweri Museveni who on several occasions has spoken out against xenophobic utterances anchored on tribe, nationality and religion.

“Africans are categorized in four linguistic groups namely; Bantu, Nilotics, Sudanic and cushites. I have no problem with all these groups settling anywhere on the continent since they are all Africans and considered brothers and sisters,” Museveni told IGAD in May 2017.

During the Summit on Somalia which was hosted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Museveni is quoted to have said his biggest concern was sectarianism.

Ugandan citizenship

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs Directorate of Citizenship and Migration, a citizen of Uganda is;

  • Every person born in Uganda, one of whose parents or grandparents is or was a member of any of the indigenous communities existing and residing within the borders of Uganda as at the first day of February, 1926, and set out in the Third Schedule to the Constitution shall be considered a citizen of Uganda by birth.
  • Every person born in or outside Uganda one of whose parents or grandparents was at the time of birth of that person, a citizen of Uganda by birth.
  • A child of not more than five years of age found in Uganda whose parents are not known is presumed to be Ugandan.
  • A child under the age of eighteen years neither of whose parents is a citizen of Uganda, who is adopted by a citizen of Uganda upon registration shall be a citizen of Uganda.
  • A person who successfully applies for and is registered as a citizen of Uganda.

For Example radio presenter and socialite Karitas Karisimbi, a Ugandan of Rwandan origin was denied a Ugandan passport for 10 years.

Among other encumbrances she has had to deal with being a Ugandan of Rwandan origin, Karitas said she was advised by immigration’s legal officials to denounce her Rwandan links for her to get Ugandan citizenship.

Karitas says she wants to know why she has been denied a Ugandan passport for ten years yet she was born in Uganda.
Karitas says she wants to know why she has been denied a Ugandan passport for ten years yet she was born in Uganda.

The August House later adopted the 20th Annual Report of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and recommended for the amendment of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) to align it with international standards on the freedom of assembly.

According to a United Nations Human Rights Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) January 2020 newsletter, Uganda was hosting 1,394,678 refugees majorly from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Burundi.

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