That was one of the points of discussion at the recently concluded Ugandan Convention UK in London. In its second year now the convention brought together Ugandans in the Diaspora from across Europe and America, friends of Uganda such as Baroness Lynda Chalker , International Investors as well as Senior Government Officials from the government of Uganda notably, Uganda’s First Lady and Minister for Karamoja, the Speaker in Uganda’s Parliament, the Ministers of finance and Agriculture and several Technocrats including a representative from the Immigration department
The aim of the convention was to explore ways the Ugandan diaspora can contribute to the economic development of Uganda as well as get an understanding of where the investment opportunities are.
I found the First Lady’s interesting for precisely the reason Africa on the Blog exists -Africans telling the story of Africa!
Uganda’s First Lady is also Minister for Karamoja in NE Uganda. The people of this region on Kenya’s NW border lead a semi nomadic life and have made it into the popular media here in the UK, under the usual headlines, cattle rustling on the increase in Karamoja, starvation etc. I have never been to Karamoja and with such headlines the place conjured up images of a harsh place to be with very little life. But the First Lady’s speech and short documentary on Karamoja opened my eyes. Karamoja is a place of hope thanks to inward investment, dependence FOOD AID has reduced by an impressive 70% this is a place that was featured in The Guardian a year ago as having been dependent on food aid for several years but in spite of this the food shortage was so bad people had taken to eating old animal hides. With the introduction of farming technology most folk now grow their own food and have settled accommodation. There is still a lot of work to be done to bring the region on par with the rest of the country however that great progress has been made.
The various speakers outlined the investment opportunities in Uganda as well as the progress that the country has made over the last 50 years. But perhaps the presentation that caused the most excitement came from Senior Immigration Officer Mr. Marshall Alenyo.
Dual citizenship is currently illegal in Uganda, however the government of Uganda has recently taken steps to legalize it by introducing a dual citizenship Visa for its diaspora who hold British passports at a cost of $300. The Ugandan diaspora strongly object to having to pay this fee because, it is disproportionately large.
According to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development the diaspora currently remit £984, 900 a year, compare that to for instance €439,000, 000 which is European Aid to Uganda for the period 2008-2013. The feeling here is that the Ugandan Diaspora are the biggest donors to Uganda but are not treated with due regard, neither is their contribution acknowledged by the government. In the word of one delegate “you have to decide whether we are important to you as a government, you can’t have it both ways”
There is also a question as to how or what the dual citizenship visa fee will be spent on.
Crucially and perhaps of most concern to the Ugandan Diaspora was the realization that as a British passport holder, there is no entitlement to own land in Uganda and if you do, you are doing so illegally. It was unclear as to what will happen in situations where land was acquired prior to being naturalized as a British citizen.
Mr Alenyo, went to explore the various categories of citizenship, but of interest was the fact that children born of Ugandans with British citizenship cannot claim to be Ugandans, his precise words were “ a fish living in the same river as a frog cannot become a frog” I must say this was lost on me and perhaps most other delegates. He urged us to lobby the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, in order to get the ¢300 visa fee waived as our neighbors in Kenya did so successfully and do not have to pay for dual citizenship. Would the government of Uganda forgo this amount of easy money? I sincerely don’t know but I would like to think that common sense would prevail.
I am not quite sure how the issue of dual citizenship affects the Ugandan Asians who were also present at the convention most of who are keen to return to UgandA including a 98 year old man. But suffice to say, the Immigration Officer raised more questions than he answered and left most of us wondering WHO THE REAL UGANDANS ARE.
Hon. Kadaga (Speaker) saved the day by promising to install a Diaspora desk in her office, which will be responsible for handling our concerns.
So over to you readers, if you are an African Diaspora how does your country handle the issue of dual citizenship? Has the Ugandan government got this right?