Indians living in Uganda cannot be made an indigenous tribe because their origin cannot be traced as is the case with other communities and ethnicities in the country, the State Minister for Gender, Ms Peace Mutuuzo, has said.
The minister made the statement while appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities yesterday. The statement contradicts President Museveni’s view on the issue early this month after he hinted on Indians becoming a tribe in Uganda. The Equal Opportunities Committee chaired by Ms Hellen Asamo (the Member of Parliament for People Living with Disabilities for Eastern region, NRM) is investigating allegations of maginalisation of minority communities across the country.
When asked by the Rujumbura County MP Fred Turyamuhweza about the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development’s plan to have the Indian community as a local tribe, Ms Mutuuzo said the 1995 Constitution provides for only those indigenous communities that were documented as of February 1, 1926.
She said the Indians’ origin cannot be traced anywhere in Uganda other than in India, adding that their culture also is different from the diverse cultures of the indigenous Ugandan communities.
“The Indians know where they come from and we know a country called India. We know where India is and we know where Uganda is. So it is easy to identify and differentiate between an Indian and a Ugandan,” Ms Mutuuzo said.
The Indian community, which has been seeking to be recognised as a local tribe in Uganda, recently petitioned Mr Museveni during a function at State House Entebbe. Reports indicate that there are about 25,000 Indians living in Uganda, most of whom having returned to the country in the 1990s since the mass expulsion in 1972 by then president Idi Amin.
During the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Uganda in July last year, the Indian Community advocated for their recognition as a tribe as it has been done in neighbouring Kenya.
However, Ms Mutuuzo insists the Indians can become Ugandans through dual citizenship and marriage, and continue with the current levels of partnerships with indigenous communities in building the nation.
Efforts by the MPs to seek more information from the minister about the Indians’ petition were thwarted by Committee chairperson, who told them to wait until when government has moved a motion in that regard.
The government plans to roll out a national affirmative action programme for indigenous communities in Uganda in June next year to address the socio-economic challenges they are facing.