Indigenous Ugandan tribes demand recognition by the Constitution

By Edwin Muhumuza

Indigenous  minority groups have petitioned the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga demanding that government respects their rights as Ugandans.

Led by the Equal Opportunities Commission, among their demands are to be included in the constitution, provided with national Identity Cards , post resettlement support after eviction as well as access to social services. The cultural leader of the Banyabindi tribe, His Highness, Mugisha Elisha Atenyi, led the delegation of cultural leaders and their representatives under the umbrella body; Indigenous Minority Groups, IMG Coalition.

He spoke on behalf of the Aliba,Bahehe,Banyabindi,Bagungu,Banyabutumbi,Basongora,Batwa,Gimara, Ik,Lendu,Mening,Mvuba,Maragoli,Ngikutio,Nyangia,Reli,Shana,Tepeth and the Venoma. Others include; the Benet, Barundi, Bagangaizi, Bagaya, Basese, Meru, Mwangwar, Bakingwe and Banyanyanja.

‘Bearing in mind that the provisions of the 1995 Constitution, Article 36 provides for the rights of minorities to participate in decision making processes’.

‘We are deeply concerned that the forced eviction of IMGs from forests and other natural environment has resulted in alienation from their ancestral land, loss of identity, dignity and a sense of belonging, loss of knowledge and skills associated with their cultural ways of live, disruption of their social organization and cohesion, restriction of access to their cultural heritage sites and loss of sources of livelihood.’ His Highness, Mugisha, said.

The Chairperson of the Equal Opportiunities Commission ,Sylvia Ntambi, flanked by officials from the civil society noted that they have been receiving petitions from the Banyabindi, the Nubian community, the Batwa, the Ik ,Maragoli, and the Benet.

‘We have adjudicated some cases and only finished one that is the Maragoli who have Identity Cards  and others do not have , those who have was after they had paid, not because they were considered Ugandans. The Banyabindi have issues of access to land, lack of access to health facilities and do not access help against the HIV/AIDS scourge.’

The speaker assured the group that a select team of legislators had been sent on a fact finding mission two weeks ago to speak to the Batwa in Kanungu and Bundibugyo  and it is a work in progress. She added  that she had already extracted a commitment from the president ,that when the constitution is amended, the Maragoli will be included.