Museveni’s Indian tribe and Felix Tshisekedi’s serious business

Saturday November 16 2019

Asuman Bisiika

Asuman Bisiika 

By Asuman Bisiika

Mr Museveni was recently quoted by the media as saying Indians will be a Ugandan tribe. I prefer to use the word ‘community’ instead of ‘tribe’.
I find the word ‘tribe’ rather pejorative; it is an anthropological characterisation and a descriptive rendering of a primordial social existence of a community. It describes the existence (social life) of the community; it doesn’t define it. So, for the sake of political correctness (and of course my lugezigezi), let us say Mr Museveni said: Indians will be one of the indigenous communities of Uganda.
“But why is it important for a group of people to be an indigenous community in Uganda,” I asked a lawyer friend? After a lengthy chat, below is what I deducted.

Citizenship in Uganda comes through two tiers: Nativity and State recognition. As a bona fide Mukonzo tribesman (complete with my ritual circumcision), I am a Ugandan. And as a serious Congolese investor in Uganda, the State may offer me Ugandan citizenship.
But there is a catch: To be president of the Republic of Uganda, one of your parents must belong to one of the indigenous communities of Uganda. To make sure there is no grey area on this matter (of president), Uganda’s indigenous communities are itemised in the Third Schedule of the Constitution of Uganda. It doesn’t end there: For a group to qualify as an indigenous community, it must have had native provenance in Uganda as at Monday February 1, 1926.

So, were there Indians in Uganda in before February 1926? Yes. Does the entire Indian community in Uganda descend from the guys who came to build the railway? No. Let us accept it: There are some Indians who clearly qualify to be classified as an indigenous Ugandan community.
Dr Musa Ahmad, is a fourth generation Ugandan whose great grandfather is credited as the first doctor at Rubaga Hospital. Mr Kunal Karia is a fourth generation Ugandan whose great grandfather opened the first shop in Kabale.
But there are Indian dukawalas (shop owners) investors. They run electronic shops on Kampala Road. Should those also become part of our indigenous Indian community? No. Those can be citizens by registration (or naturalisation?)

The joke in town is that my name was not on the list of President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi’s entourage to Kampala. “Well guys, you know these North-South things… We northerners are accused of being Mobutists and we are now marginalised. That’s why my name didn’t appear on the entourage.” On a serious note, President Tshisekedi came here for serious business. The keyword is ‘serious’.
On June 21, 2019, I published a Facebook post reading thus: “Those near Mr Museveni should tell him that a certain country called Uganda needs a functional embassy in DRC. Uganda also needs a consulate in Goma. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

A friend in the system asked me to put more light on my Facebook post. I wrote a 2,000 word memo. When it was recently confirmed that DRC President Tshisekedi would be coming to town, he called and thanked me for the part I had played in making the visit happen. I had, of course, forgotten. He reminded me. Being a confessed braggart, I pulled out my June Facebook post and re-posted it as a screen capture photo.
Except Rwanda, East Africans have never given the DRC the regional strategic importance it carries. I pray that Mr Tshisekedi’s visit be the beginning of something ‘serious’.
Well, did I say Tshisekedi’s visit was for ‘serious’ business? Yes, that it was.