17 May 2009

Uganda: Parliament Passes Dual Citizenship Law

Kampala — PARLIAMENT has finally passed a law that provides for dual citizenship. The new law, however, prohibits holders of dual citizenship from serving in key political and security offices.

The new legislation, the 2008 Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control (Amendment) Bill, only awaits the President's signature to become operational.

If signed, it would be welcomed by Ugandans in the Diaspora who have been asking for dual citizenship for years.

At the fore-front of this request were the Ugandan North American Association and the Gwanga Mujje group, which organise annual conventions in the US.

Former internal minister Ruhakana Rugunda last year assured Ugandans in the Diaspora that the law would be enacted.

"The dual citizenship and permanent resident status are meant to re-establish full citizenship of Ugandans living abroad and facilitate their entry and exit from the country by removing immigration barriers," Rugunda told a meeting in Merryland in the US.

On Thursday, the defence and internal affairs committee presented a report to Parliament after which the MPs passed the law with amendments.

"Many of our people in the Diaspora have lost citizenship due to lack of an enabling law providing for dual citizenship. This Bill intends to give such people opportunity to regain Ugandan citizenship," Mathias Kasamba, the committee's chairman, noted.

"The legislation will also give citizenship to none-Ugandan nationals who are making enormous contribution to our nation, and would wish to attain Ugandan citizenship."

Positions which people with dual citizenship cannot hold include the Presidency, the Prime Minister, ministers, the Inspector General of Government, the head of the armed forces or commanding officers.

They can also not head the Police, any of the intelligence organisations or departments responsible for records, personnel and logistics in all branches of the armed forces. Matsiko Kabakumba, the former government chief whip, said the Bill was a response to the public outcry for dual citizenship.

"A citizen of Uganda of 18 years and above who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of a country other than Uganda may retain citizenship of Uganda," the new law states.

However, there are a number of requirements to become a Ugandan citizen. Applicants must not be engaged in espionage against Uganda or have served in the armed forces of countries at war or hostile to Uganda. They need to have a clean criminal record and should not be bankrupt.

The applicant must also be above 18 years, be of sound mind, and hold only one other citizenship from a country which permits dual citizenship. In addition, non-Ugandans must prove that they are not being deported from any country and are not under a death sentence or imprisonment exceeding nine months.

They must also have been resident in Uganda for over 20 years, and for 24 months running just before the application. The applicants must know at least one prescribed Ugandan language, English or Swahili.

Additionally, the applicants should possess "substantial amounts of money lawfully acquired and be willing to take the oath of allegiance".

Okello Okello (UPC) said he was not convinced that the country stands to gain from dual citizenship. "I don't believe one has to be a citizen to invest in a country. The big known investments here are by non-citizens," he observed.

Charles Angiro (Independent) expressed concern that Uganda would see an influx of citizenship-seeking foreigners. "One million Chinese or a quarter of Rwandan nationals may apply for Ugandan citizenship arguing that they helped liberate Uganda in the Luwero triangle war," he noted.

Beatrice Anywar (FDC) argued that Ugandans living abroad should come back proudly as Ugandans without any conditions.

"In the North, where we have had war, people left the country for different reasons. That means they are at the mercy of those making the law."

Alex Ndezi (NRM) warned against "monetising" citizenship.

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