Legislators on the equal opportunities committee of Parliament are opposed to the proposal by President Yoweri Museveni to have the Indian community recognised as a Ugandan tribe.
The MPs’ concerns follow a media report in Saturday Vision on November 9, where Museveni promised to grant Indians a tribe status on top of promising them land, during the Diwali dinner at State House.
“We can have another tribe called Wahindi in our Constitution. We shall call you Wahindi. There is no problem in having an extra tribe called Wahindi in the Constitution,” Museveni was quoted as saying.
This did not go down well with the legislators on the committee chaired by Hellen Asamo (PWDs eastern), who asked the state minister for culture, Peace Mutuzo, to explain
the plausibility of having the Indian community recognised by the Constitution as a Ugandan tribe as per President Museveni’s promise to the Indians.
The minister was appearing before the committee yesterday to respond to a petition by various indigenous marginalised tribes in Uganda such as the Benet, Maragoli, and Bakingwe.
The petition by the indigenous/ minority people’s representatives to Parliament raised margninalisation, deprivatisation of land, denial to access natural resources, poverty, and discrimination in access to services as the main issues affecting these communities.
The minister clarified to the legislators how the gender ministry is fully abreast of the plight of the indigenous minority and is on track with the development of the national affirmative action programme.
Steven Kangwagye, the Bukanga County MP, demanded to know the position of the ministry on the Indians issue.
“What does the President mean by saying that we can add them to the Constitution, what is the position of the ministry on the matter?” he said.
Mutuzo, expressing the position of the ministry, downplayed any likelihood of Indians becoming tribes, reasoning that by 1926, Indians were not indigenous communities in Uganda and, therefore, cannot become a tribe rather than being mere nationals through the various channels of citizenship acquisition enshrined in the law.
“I think Indians can be Ugandans by dual citizenship, by marriage, and by birth. But in as far as integrating them as an indigenous tribe, we would not have met our criteria,” Mutuzo said.
According to the High Commission of India in Kampala website, as per April 2019, the Indian community is estimated at about 30,000 people, the majority being Indian passport holders. Over the years, Indians have been asking Uganda to give them constitutional recognition so as to be included in the 65 tribes of Uganda, like it has been done in Kenya.