Banyarwanda petition parliament over alleged segregation

Banyarwanda, a community of Rwandan origin living in Uganda, address a press conference in Kampala on March 15, 2021.PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The petition has been referred to the parliament committee of defence and internal affairs.

An association of persons of Rwandan origin living in Uganda through their umbrella, the Council for Abavandimwe has petitioned parliament seeking a probe into alleged segregation and violation of their rights in the country.

In the petition presented to parliament by Kalungu West legislator Joseph Gonzaga Sewungu, the Bavandimwe noted that although they became an indigenous tribe after the annexation of Rwanda's border territories of Kisoro, Kigezi and Ndorwa, they have “continued to face serious citizenship rights violations at the hands Ugandan authorities.”

The 1995 Ugandan constitution fully recognizes Banyarwanda as one of the indigenous tribes of the country.

However, the group claims it is “segregated through denial of access to some services, including obtaining national identity cards.”

“Ugandan Banyarwanda are facing serious citizenship rights violations at the hands of both the National Immigration Registration Authority (NIRA) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs Immigration department where they are denied national identity cards and passports,” the petition presented on Tuesday in part.

Other challenges raised by the group include confiscation of their identification documents, inability to be employed in both Uganda and abroad due to lack of identification documents as well as being unable to open up bank accounts or register companies.

“Some Ugandan-Banyarwanda whose passports expired are stuck in the Middle East and other countries around the world without any assistance from the Ugandan foreign missions and embassies because they are deemed not to be Ugandan citizens,” petitioners told parliament.

“Some of the Ugandan Banyarwanda have been unable to travel abroad for better or specialised health care which has cost them their lives,” they added.

Bavandimwe further claimed that despite meeting the concerned Ugandan authorities, nothing has been done to address their plight.

The group led by Kampala businessman Frank Gashumba now wants parliament to direct NIRA and the ministry of internal affairs to issue their members with passports and national IDs like any other Ugandan, per the constitution.

In a rejoinder, Ssewungu emphasized that the segregation against the local Rwandan community is within the ministry of internal affairs, not entirely among civilians.

“It is very painful that a person can get clearance from LC I and II, pays for the passport and at the end of that that, he or she is thrown out without a passport,” he added.

Parliament Speaker Anita Among referred the petition to the House committee of defence and internal affairs, which will report back to Parliament within 45 days.