Government disowns ESO chief over dual citizenship

Monday May 16 2016

By TABU BUTAGIRA

Kampala. Uganda’s top spymaster holds both Ugandan and British nationalities in breach of the law relating to his position, and there is no evidence in Immigration records that he formally sought or was granted dual citizenship, according to our investigations.
A senior official of Ministry of Internal Affairs, where the directorate of Citizenship and Immigrations falls, said Mr Joseph Okello Ocwet, the director general of the External Security Organisation (ESO), was yet to apply for and regularise his dual citizenship status.

Holding a Ugandan passport and another does not automatically fulfill the legal requirements for dual citizenship and an applicant is required to formally fill and submit a different form to obtain it, said spokesman Jacob Siminyu. Mr Siminyu, in response to our inquiries, wrote: “Our records show that Mr Ocwet Joseph Okello is a Ugandan. The government of Uganda has not received any notification to authorise Ocwet Joseph to become a dual citizen ...”

The ex-Uganda envoy to the African Union was named as ESO boss about a year ago. Asked about the alleged irregularity, he told this newspaper on Friday that he could not challenge his own suitability or appointment.
“I am doing a job I was appointed to by His Excellency, the President. I am not the right person to answer [your questions]. I can’t question my own appointment,” he said by telephone.

The fifth schedule of the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control (Amendment) Act, 2009, bars individuals holding a citizenship other than of Uganda from, among high profile positions, heading any of the country’s Intelligence agencies, including ESO. (See list of other exempt positions).
Presidential Spokesperson Lindah Nabusayi had by press time not responded to our inquiries on why President Museveni appointed Mr Ocwet in apparent breach of the law, a week after promising to revert with an answer.
Highly placed sources say the political heads of the Internal Affairs ministry brought the anomaly to the President’s attention after they were alerted by the in-house Citizenship and Immigration board.

Our investigations show that Mr Ocwet holds British passport Number 099270896 and a Ugandan diplomatic passport Number DA022895 issued on August 14, 2015 to replace a previous one that expired last October.
Mr Ocwet has since 2011 used the British and Uganda passports interchangeably for at least 48 flights to and out of Entebbe International Airport. Forty of those trips were to Juba and Khartoum destinations alone.

Whereas there is nothing wrong with a Ugandan holding two or multiple passports if legally acquired, such a person, according to ministry officials, would not be considered to hold dual citizenship unless they formally regularise their status.
The law also bars children born to Ugandan parents outside of the country from being Ugandan citizens until they attain the adult age of 18 years when it is presumed they can decide whether or not to be Ugandans.

Those exempted
1. President
2. Vice President
3. Prime Minister
4. Cabinet and other ministers
5. The Inspector General and the Deputy Inspector General of Government
6. Technical Head of the Armed Forces
7. Commanding Officers of Armed Forces Units of at least battalion strength
8. Officers responsible for heading departments responsible for records, personnel and logistics in all branches of the Armed Forces
9. Inspector General of Police and Deputy Inspector General of Police
10. Heads and Deputy Heads of National Security and Intelligence Organisations (ESO, ISO and CMI)
11. Member of the National Citizenship and Immigration Board.

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