16 September 2017

Uganda Banyarwanda Decry Ethnic Profiling

The Banyarwanda of Uganda have lately been finding it hard to travel to Rwanda for fear of having their documents confiscated by Ugandan immigration officials who consider them aliens.

This contravenes Uganda's Constitution, which recognises Banyarwanda as one of the 56 indigenous communities of Uganda.

Their crackdown intensified when Uganda started issuing national IDs to its citizens in 2014, sources say.

Both Uganda and Rwandan immigration offices declined to provide information and figures on how many individuals have been affected, but sources at the Ugandan embassy in Kigali say complaints of this nature are reported every week.

Some of the affected who were interviewed by The EastAfrican said they were being profiled by Ugandan immigration officers at the borders.

"An Immigration officer asked for my tribe and I replied that I am a Munyarwanda of Ugandan descent, and that is where all the trouble started," said one man in Nyagatare, a border district.

"He confiscated my ID and told me that I should seek a Rwandan ID instead. I tried to plead with him but he did not listen. I had just come to visit some relatives."

Reapplying for IDs

People whose IDs are confiscated report to the Ugandan embassy in Kigali, where they are asked to pay a fee of Rwf3,000 ($4) for a document authorising them to travel back to Uganda.

Upon return to Uganda, they are expected to report to the National Identification and Registration Authority, where they are asked to reapply for the IDs.

According to the chairperson of the Banyarwanda Community of Uganda, Donat Kananura, such case are now rampant and several meetings have been held with immigration officers to find solution.

He told The EastAfrican that many Banyarwanda who wish to cross the border now resort to falsifying their identification.

"Many of them report to us that their IDs have been taken. Others now choose to say they are Banyankore or Bafumbira to avoid trouble and they cross easily," he said.

The Ugandan embassy in Rwanda told The EastAfrican that although dual citizenship is legal, some Ugandan Banyarwanda exploit systems in both countries to get nationalities from both countries without going through formal processes.

"If an individual seeks to acquire dual citizenship, there is a formal channel. It is wrong to apply for documents as a Ugandan and then apply for Rwandan citizenship without declaring your other nationality," Anne Katusiime, the deputy head of Mission at the Ugandan embassy said.

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