Source: Council for Abavandimwe, Uganda
March 15th, 2021, Kampala, Uganda: The Council for Abavandimwe, commonly known to most people as Banyarwanda; are delighted to update the country on important matters regarding our citizenship and how we are treated as we conduct business in our country Uganda.
The Council for Abavandimwe, on this 15th day of March this year; needs to make clarifications and also make an appeal to some of the Ugandan Authorities; on issues of citizenry, and access of official documents, in our own country Uganda.
Fellow Ugandans, right from the 1900 National Census done by the British Colonial Government, it should be clear to all young generations and all those who may not be aware; that the Banyarwanda have always been part of this country’s indigenous tribes. This fact, is indeed not known to so many people. By the mere fact that the name of our tribe, links us with the neighboring country, to so many people; they are mistaken to think we are foreigners. However, there are those, who deliberately use this as a weapon of segregation.
This, overtime, has caused these Ugandans, under the flagship of the name ‘Banyarwanda’ to be segregated and treated like non-Ugandans. Much as this country is with no contention, globally acclaimed for welcoming foreigners and refugees, making it a country with the second largest concentration of refugees in the world, this should not in anyway, make some people de-alienate its own fellow citizens, thinking they are foreigners.
This is one reason, in our briefing today, where we are proposing to the fellow Banyarwanda to kindly consider re-naming our tribe as “Abavandimwe”. We will come to you for consultation, on this matter. We will today explain in detail why we are making this appeal, for the betterment of these 11 million Ugandans, who are currently known to be of the Banyarwanda tribe, as per our Ugandan Constitution.
FROM BANYARWANDA to ABAVANDIMWE
Abavandimwe is the name we propose since it is steeped in the rich tradition of ‘Ubuvandimwe’, which celebrates the bond of brethren.
WHY WE MUST REBRAND
Before our country Uganda attained her political independence, our fore-fathers had broken bread, shared dreams and aspirations for Uganda, celebrated births, marriages and milestones together. We have also shared the pain of loss together, as we have also equally shared hope in the darkest moments of our country, Uganda.
As Joachim Buwembo, one of the seasoned and distinguished Ugandan journalists opines in the East Africa newspaper, on April 05, 2018; “Banyarwanda could be Uganda’s biggest tribe.” In his article titled, Are Banyarwanda Uganda’s biggest tribe? Look around, they could well be. He says, “There is enough circumstantial evidence for which I have been encountering in recent years.” He adds, “Banyarwanda are omnipresent and could be Uganda’s largest tribe as Kinyarwanda blood probably runs in most Ugandans’ veins and whoever thinks it is an issue just needs to commission a scientific study, as matters of tribes cannot just be settled by verbal arguments.”
He cites a study done at Uganda’s Independence in 1962, which found that a fifth (20 per cent) of people in Buddu County of Buganda Kingdom were ethnic Banyarwanda. It can be assumed that today (as of 2018), it is a fifth of Buddu people who don’t have Rwandan blood. He adds, “While this could be debatable, what is settled however is that, Banyarwanda are not a minority tribe, rather one of the biggest ethnic communities in Uganda.”
Members of our tribe are being denied access to the National Identity Cards and Passports, which are some of the most important documents that every Ugandan should and must have.
Unlike our fellow Ugandans, our tribe is being systemically locked out of the economy and public service of this country. Some of us cannot get phone sim cards, open bank accounts, acquire loans or even exercise our patriotic duty to join the police or armed forces.
Our research shows that 80% of our young people who have at one point applied for passports to be able to travel and seek jobs (Kyeyo) abroad, go for treatment or for business, have been denied access, despite being citizens of Uganda.
A case in point is Godfrey Rutagengwa, a Ugandan, born and raised in Kasiso Village, Kitale Parish, Namuganga Sub-county, Nakifuma County in Mukono District. He has a National Identity Card, and he recently voted in Uganda’s General Elections at Kajjansi B in Kitende; where he owns a property. He has however been denied a passport and as a businessman, this has frustrated his businesses.
In relation to all such issues; we recently, had an engagement with His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, and he expressed dismay that some of his fellow citizens in this country, can still be treated in such a manner by some wrong elements in Government. He promised to have this matter resolved with immediate effect.
This cruel discrimination is driven by several factors including a failure to differentiate between nationals of Rwanda, and the group of Rwandans who migrated to Uganda as early as 1900 and have since become an indigenous tribe of Uganda. While the framers of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda debated and agreed that Banyarwanda is a tribe like any other tribe in Uganda, and listed it as tribe Number 24, they did not foresee how difficult it would be for Ugandans to understand the difference between Banyarwanda in Uganda and nationals of Rwanda.
In many of Uganda’s tribes including the widely spoken Luganda, people from different countries are identified by the name of their country. Ugandans are ‘banaUganda’, Kenyans are ‘bana’Kenya’, Sudanese are ‘baSudan’ and Rwandans are ‘Banya’rwanda’. Many Ugandans therefore innocently think all the Banyarwanda are nationals of Rwanda, and this perception has been used by politicians and lately, security agencies, to demonize members of our community.
In order to help Ugandans and the government of Uganda to make a clear and definitive distinction between nationals of Rwanda and our tribe, we believe it is time we rebranded to the community of “Abavandimwe”.
A STIGMA – FREE UGANDA
Today’s press conference is an appeal to all Ugandans and authorities to make a distinction between our tribe, which has been indigenous in Uganda even before the colonial boundary demarcation of Uganda as a country was made; and nationals of Rwanda.
Following this press conference, we will share the stories of all our members, who for decades have been your neighbors, brothers, sisters, in-laws, business partners, workmates, and yet, today, they are being denied National IDs, passports, sim cards, bank accounts and access to capital in Uganda.
Stories of young people who have given up on travelling abroad, lost scholarship opportunities, lost assets like land and been painfully rejected by families of their fiancés because of this misleading perception that we are foreigners.
Here is our promise to Ugandans that effective this week, we will embark on conducting countrywide consultations among our members, with a view of popularizing our proposal to rebrand our tribe, and secure the future of our posterity. Our current generation may not be the beneficiary of this initiative, but someone has to save the next generation of our children and grandchildren from this dehumanization we are being subjected to.
The work we are starting today will not stop until all Ugandans can clearly tell the difference between nationals of Rwanda and our tribe, and the Constitution has been amended to reflect this reality.
We dream of a Uganda where our children, grand-children and their grand-children will live peacefully, free from self-stigma, segregation and demonization by their fellow Ugandans.
The history of Uganda will be written 100 years from today. But the true question that must be asked is; Whose name will resonate with most in those history books?
As Ugandans, you don’t have to be a politician, religious leader etc to impact lives. We must always think beyond ourselves. We have an obligation to leave behind a better Uganda than the one we see today. We must see ourselves as Ugandans no matter where grandparents hailed from. No one tribe in Uganda carries a passport that bears the logo of their tribe. It is not the titles we hold, but rather it is the solutions that we come up with that matter to our people.
The true question we need to ask ourselves is; “Are we complainers or problem-solvers?” As the Council of Abavandimwe, we choose to be problem-solvers.
ABOUT COUNCIL FOR ABAVANDIMWE
The Council for Abavandimwe is an independent, not for profit and non-partisan organization with a mission of protecting the rights of Banyarwanda born and raised in Uganda, preserving their culture and promoting their economic empowerment. The organization is inspired by and grounded in the Banyarwanda tradition of ‘Ubuvandimwe’.
Currently, the Council for Abavandimwe commands an active membership of over 260,000 who are self-identifying Banyarwanda, spread across the country and abroad. Additionally, the Council for Abavandimwe has grown to have several chapters in different higher institutions of learning in the country with respective coordinators.