KAMPALA – Parliament has granted leave to Kibanda South MP, Jacob Karubanga to introduce a Private Member’s Bill entitled, the Constitution (Amendment) Bill seeks to recognise five indigenous communities.
The Bill when introduced seeks to amend the Third Schedule to the Constitution to recognise the Bakingwe, Sabot, Bahaya, Maragoli and Mososhek.
While moving the motion on Thursday, Karubanga said the indigenous groups existed in Uganda before 01 February 1926 but have never been included in the Third Schedule.
He added these communities cannot easily access social services, travel documents and identification cards and lacked social protection against loss of their identity and cultural norms.
“The lack of recognition of these communities has led to their assimilation by bigger tribes leading to the loss of their language, identity, culture and self-determination. Including them in the Constitution will strengthen their sense of belonging and identity as Ugandan citizens,” Karubanga said.
The seconder of the motion, John Musila (Indep., Bubulo East) called on Parliament to recognise the plight of the indigenous communities.
“Since 1894 when Uganda became a protectorate and since 1926 when the borders of the protectorate of Uganda were moved from Naivasha to present-day Lwakhakha, the colonialists failed to identify some of these communities,” Musila said.
Milton Muwuma (NRM, Kigulu County South) said the Bill will provide a solution to identification of the indigenous communities in the national registry.
“The Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs has interacted with agencies like National Identification Registration Agency (NIRA) and Directorate of Citizenship, and they told us that they have challenge with issuing passports and national IDs because some ethnic groups are not clearly spelt out in the Constitution,” said Muwuma.
Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa said it is fair to recognise indigenous communities that have lived in Uganda for generations. He called on the government to fast-track the process.
“Government should come up with a Constitutional Review Commission to look at matters of ethnic minorities and other related matters so that we avoid piecemeal amendments,” Basalirwa said.
Kilak South County MP, Gilbert Olanya said there is need to research on ethnic minorities and ascertain their numbers.
“Uganda is good at hosting different ethnic groupings. There are the Chinese who are more than 40,000, South Sudanese have settled and bought land in Uganda and are more than 50,000. What will happen in the future if they raise concern that they need to be recognized as one of the ethnic groupings in this country?” Olanya asked.
Denis Oguzu Lee (FDC, Maracha County) said an impact assessment needs to be done on the indigenous communities before developing regulation so that Ugandans can understand the implication of recognizing them.
“We have had cases where every time such a matter is brought here [Parliament], they fuel ethnic conflicts. One group would want to prevail over another and this creates a hostile society which the country is not ready to confront,” Oguzu Lee said.
In a sitting of the 10th Parliament in February 2020, the House granted leave to then Kibanda South MP, Jack Odur to introduce the Constitution (Amendment) Bill that sought to include the Maragoli people among Uganda’s indigenous communities.
The Bill, however, lapsed with the dissolution of the 10th Parliament.