Saturday August 2 2014

Time to sort out the Maragoli issue

By Editorial

The demand by the Maragoli to win cultural rights and identity in Uganda is in order. But the demand must give us an opportunity to reflect and ask ourselves whether the framers of the 1995 Constitution did the right thing to make tribes the basis of definition of Ugandan citizenship. Since then, claims of citizenship on the basis of tribe have proven problematic, unlike the 1962, and 1967 Constitutions that defined citizenship on the basis of the date when Uganda, as an entity, came into existence. The previous constitutions also provided for other options upon which the Ugandan citizenship could be obtained by either decent, birth, naturalisation, or registration.
But the current reliance on the definition of citizenship on the basis of tribes listed in the Constitution has created some minority tribes that are not known to exist, for instance the Barundi.
Without doubt, the Maragoli deserve recognition of their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. The group, mostly settled in Kiryandongo District, say they were not listed among Uganda’s indigenous communities in the 1995 Constitution. And their arguments qualify on the basis of tribes since they came to Uganda as early as 1903, and hundreds more having been born and were living in Uganda as of February 1, 1926, as required by Article 9, 10(a), and (b) of the 1995 Constitution.
The Maragoli say they are marginalised and face hurdles accessing official documents, and missing out on some privileges like contesting for elective positions and securing scholarships as is with other tribes. They say this marginalisation has denied them higher education and public service office. But this question should be sorted without making a tribe the basis of citizenship. Sadly, our 1995 Constitution and its allowance for creation of tribal kingdoms, chiefdoms, and districts have fractured Uganda into a catalogue of tribes. This division of Ugandans on tribal basis has created tensions in Buganda, Tororo, the Rwenzori sub-region, and in northern Uganda.
This Maragoli issue should not compound the problem more than what it is already. This means even when the rights of the Maragoli must be recognised; MPs should not risk fracturing more tribes in Bunyoro. What Parliament should do is to review the petition of the Maragoli, and enact policies and programmes essential for redressing their social, economic, educational or other imbalances.
To this end, Article 20(1), and (2) of the 1995 Constitution guarantees fundamental and other human rights and freedoms, which are inherent and not granted by the State, and so should be for the Maragoli. Besides, Article 21 grants them equality and freedom from discrimination

The issue: Maragoli cultural rights.
Our view: Parliament should review the petitions of the Maragoli, and enact policies and programmes to redress their social, economic, educational or other imbalances.