Moderator: Chris Obore, Director, Communication and Public Affairs Department, Parliament of Uganda
Panellists: Hon. Mbogo Kezekia, Hon. Lokwang Hillary (MP), Hon. Taaka Agnes (MP), Hon. Colonel Kulayigye Felix, Hon. Alex Byarugaba (MP), Hon. Ann Nankabirwa (MP), Hon. Alex. A. Baryayanga (MP), Joy Kyakwita, Immigration Consultant, Hon. Ssemujju Ibrahim (MP).
Chris Obore the moderator explained that Ugandans in the Diaspora were seeking for answers from their leaders in Kampala on issues affecting them rather than just mobilising them to go back and invest.
Hon Mbogo Kezekia, the Vice Chairman Defence and Internal Affairs Committee reassured Ugandans in the Diaspora that Uganda was now peaceful, however, on the issue of voting rights, they needed to fulfil their obligations of registering as dual nationalists to be eligible to vote.
Hon Semujju Ibrahim Nganda said that besides dual citizenship being recognised, the processes to enable Ugandans to enjoy it were not fully completed. He further said that the government needed to provide facilitation at foreign missions to allow people in the Diaspora to exercise their rights to vote.
Hon Keefa Kiwanuka who lived in the Diaspora for over 20 years said that he was disappointed that people in the Diaspora could not vote. He gave examples of countries like Algeria, Cape Verde and Angola which were allowing even representatives in their parliament to represent people in the Diaspora. So there was need for people in the Diaspora to vote and to have representatives in the Uganda parliament which will give them an opportunity to be involved in the legislative agenda of the country. Without giving rights to people in the Diaspora, they feel isolated and detached from the politics of the country and which they only followed from the peripherals.
Hon Anna Nankabirwa, representative of Kyankwanzi district said that she was part of the ninth parliament which made the amendment to include the dual citizenship. Even though the processes were still underway but the law was done and it safeguarded and protected Ugandans to retain their acquired citizenship and as well as their Ugandan one.
She called upon the Uganda electoral commission to extend their services to foreign missions to allow those eligible Ugandans to exercise their rights to vote.
Joy Kyakwita, an immigration specialist living in the Diaspora stressed that, the convention centred its discussions on investment and other business issues but forgot to note that Ugandans felt rejected as all those were connected to one’s identity. She also pointed out that acquiring a British passport was a move that only helped one to get a good job to be able to earn better wages to enable them to invest back home.
She also felt that since Ugandans had not denounced their Ugandan nationality, they shouldn’t lose it automatically and also feel that the $400 fee was unreasonable as Ugandans in the Diaspora invested quite heavily back him.
She also cited that registering of a national ID or dual citizenship requires someone to travel to Uganda and spend over 6 weeks unless they knew someone who could help to call someone to expedite the application. Thus, she requested that the Uganda High Commission in UK needed to be able to provide dual-citizenship certificates.
Hon. Kulayigye, UPDF Representative said that this is a matter of law and facts. The issue had been sorted by the new law which permitted someone to possess two citizenships and of recent in the UK and USA some Ugandans registered and obtain their certificates.
Finally, Hon. Ssemujju pointed out that Ugandans should also be encouraged to invest in the UK and he requested in subsequent conventions to list opportunities for Ugandans from home to invest in so that they broaden their investment portfolio internationally.
He further said that despite the fact that the government was encouraging Ugandans to go back and invest, it should as well identify those reasons that forced them to leave so that they are addressed.