Parliament to debate the Bill to Recognize Indigenous Communities

The bill seeks to include the Maragoli, Mososhek, Sabot, Bakingwe, and Bahaya people in the constitution (PHOTO /Courtesy)

KAMPALA — The Kibanda South MP, Hon Jacob Karubanga, has been given permission to file a Private Member’s Bill called the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to recognize five indigenous communities.

When the bill is introduced, it will seek to change the Constitution’s Third Schedule to recognize the Bakingwe, Sabot, Bahaya, Maragoli, and Mososhek peoples.

On Thursday, November 11, 2021, Karubanga moved the motion, stating that indigenous groups existed in Uganda prior to February 1, 1926, but were never included in the Third Schedule.

These groups, according to Hon. Karubanga, lack easy access to social services, travel documents, and identification cards, as well as social protection against loss of identity and cultural norms.

“Due to a lack of acknowledgment, many communities have been assimilate by larger tribes, resulting in the loss of their language, identity, culture, and autonomy. Their sense of belonging and identification as Ugandan citizens will be strengthened by their inclusion in the Constitution “According to Karubanga.

Hon John Musila (Indep., Bubulo East), who seconded the motion, called on Parliament to recognize the situation of indigenous peoples.

“The colonialists failed to recognize some of these tribes since 1894, when Uganda became a protectorate, and since 1926, when the protectorate of Uganda’s borders were shifted from Naivasha to present-day Lwakhakha,” Musila added.

The Bill, according to Hon Milton Muwuma (NRM, Kigulu County South), will give a mechanism for the identification of indigenous communities in the national registration.

“The Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs met with agencies such as the National Identification Registration Agency (NIRA) and the Directorate of Citizenship, and they told us that issuing passports and national IDs is difficult because some ethnic groups are not clearly defined in the Constitution,” Muwuma said.

Hon Asuman Basalirwa, Bugiri Municipality MP, believes it is only fair to acknowledge indigenous communities who have been in Uganda for years. He urged the government to hasten the process.

“The government should establish a Constitutional Review Commission to examine ethnic minorities and other related issues in order to avoid piecemeal revisions,” says the author “Basalirwa said.

Hon Gilbert Olanya, Kilak South County MP, stated that there is a need to conduct study on ethnic minorities in order to determine their numbers.

“Uganda is a great place to visit if you want to meet people from different ethnic groups. There are more than 40,000 Chinese, and more than 50,000 South Sudanese have settled and purchased land in Uganda.

What would happen in the future if they express the desire to be recognized as one of the country’s ethnic groups?” Olanya inquired.

Before creating regulations, Hon Denis Oguzu Lee (FDC, Maracha County) said an effect study on indigenous communities should be conducted so that Ugandans may grasp the implications of recognizing them.

“There have been instances where bringing such an issue here [Parliament] fuels ethnic tensions. “One faction would seek to triumph over another, resulting in a hostile culture that the country is not prepared to face,” Oguzu Lee stated.

The House granted leave to then-Kibanda South MP Hon. Jack Odur to propose the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, which sought to include the Maragoli people among Uganda’s indigenous communities, during a sitting of the 10th Parliament in February 2020.

The Bill, however, expired when the 10th Parliament was dissolved.

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