Dear Members of the Ugandan Diaspora,
I wanted to speak directly to you on the issues that affect us as members of the Ugandan Diaspora, request your input and share with you some of the efforts that UNAA has been spearheading since my administration came into office two years ago.
This is a conversation, and your input is vital to its success. Let’s begin this conversation now and hopefully we shall be able to continue it in New Orleans in a few months.
As the oldest and largest Ugandan Diaspora Association, UNAA has been the pre-eminent voice of the Ugandan Diaspora since its founding in 1988.
At the 2000 UNAA Convention in Kampala, the UNAA leadership at the time presented a very strong case that was instrumental in the passage of the dual citizenship law about 10 years later. While we are grateful and welcome the law’s passage, it has some serious shortcomings which have seriously hampered the ability of the diaspora to take full advantage of it.
Part of the reason this is so, is that the Ugandan diaspora was not adequately consulted while the law was being drafted. Right now, there is a draft national diaspora policy document before the Ugandan cabinet and I think it is paramount that the document gets the input of the Ugandan Diaspora and especially you the UNAA Members.
We have been able to gather the following issues as those currently affecting the Ugandan diaspora that government can address, we would like to engage you in a conversation about some other issues we may have missed out. Please send an email to email@example.com with the Subject “Diaspora Issues” to contribute to the conversation.
The Ugandan Diaspora remains a key participant in Uganda’s economic development over the last 30 years. The average remittances per year between 2008 and 2012 amounted to about US $800 million, which exceeds official aid which averaged US $538 million but equivalent to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Uganda. In addition, remittances have been a more stable source of capital than private capital since the diaspora is more likely to continue investing even when the private capital markets consider Uganda to be high risk.
Issues Facing the Ugandan Diaspora:
1) The Right to Vote. The Ugandan Diaspora strongly feels that their democratic right to participate in Uganda’s political development has been strongly hampered by their inability to be able to cast votes from their lands of residence.
2) National ID. The National ID Program Implementation and its imitations for the Ugandan Diaspora and dual citizens. Will there be the ability for the diaspora to acquire the ID at the nearest Ugandan Embassy or mission? If not yet possible, what measures are being put in place to cater for the diaspora who still need services from Uganda but do not have the ID?
3) Loss of Ugandan Citizenship. As currently written, if a Ugandan citizen acquired the citizenship of another country, say the United States or Canada citizenship, they automatically lose Ugandan citizenship and would need to reapply and pay $400 in order to be dual citizens. This needs to change. If you are a United States Citizen and acquire Israeli citizenship for example you don’t lose United States citizenship and vice versa.
4) Ring-fencing Dual Citizens out of Positions. As currently written, Dual citizens can not serve is certain positions in the country. The diaspora feels this is discrimination, and rightly so.
5) Citizenship to Children born abroad. Children of Ugandan citizens born abroad don’t automatically acquire Ugandan citizenship, they have to first apply and be 18 years of age. A child of a United States citizen born abroad automatically becomes a United States citizen. This needs to change in Uganda as well.
6) Need for Cheaper Calling Rates. Because of taxes, calling Uganda is more expensive than calling Kenya or Rwanda, this needs to change.
7) Need for a cheaper Money Transfer Mechanism. There is a need to understand why the money transfer fees are quite high for Uganda compared to Kenya or Rwanda, this needs to change if it has to do we taxes. I am aware that some new money transfer services have emerged that are considerably cheaper than the traditional banks and services like Western Union and MoneyGram.
8) Non-Resident Assets Protection Program. If you buy Mailo land and you’re in the diaspora, a squatter who has lived on your land (without permission) for 12 years can not be kicked off. We need a special provision for the diaspora. Also, the other issue that has been raised is a diasporan’s descendants inheriting land especially since they are not automatically Ugandan citizens by virtue of their parents being Ugandan citizens.
9) Expansion of the Online Services. Payment of Taxes, Utilities, Registration of businesses, Verification of land titles, births, death.
10) Visa Fees Waiver. President Museveni promised to waive these fees, on his recent visit to Dallas, Texas. This needs to be followed up. We feel dual citizen or not, a citizen is a citizen and should be not be discriminated.
11) Diaspora Bond. Ugandans in the Diaspora would like to have a right to participate in Uganda’s economic and infrastructure development. Many other governments have been successful with these efforts.
Current Diaspora Services:
1) Diaspora Services Department – Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The DSD was created in 2007 following a Presidential Directive for a Diaspora Services Department to be created in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Public Service approved the creation of Department in 2008.
2) Diaspora Desk – Parliament of the Republic of Uganda
The desk was created in 2013 to create a link and a sustainable communication channel through which Ugandans in the Diaspora can get information about Parliament of Uganda, Uganda at large and how Parliament can be supportive to them
3) Diaspora Office – State House, Entebbe, Uganda
President Museveni promised to set up a Diaspora Desk reporting directly to him on his recent visit to Dallas, Texas in September 2014. We will follow up.
Brian M. Kwesiga
President and CEO,
Ugandan North American Association – UNAA
972.415.6372 | http://www.unaa.org | “United We Stand”