Source: International Refugee Rights Initiative
On Wednesday 2 May 2018, the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) with support from the Open Society Foundations (OSF), organised a workshop in Uganda on the Right to Nationality, ahead of the second meeting of African Union’s Member States Experts on the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Specific Aspects on the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa, held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 7-11 May 2018. (The first meeting had been held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 13-16 March 2018.)
The workshop brought together key stakeholders from national civil society, international NGOs and the Government of Uganda, including Minister Musa Ecweru from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, and representatives from the Office of the Prime Minster, Ministry of Justice, the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and the Ministry of East African Affairs. The workshop aimed to introduce the draft protocol, with a particular focus on issues relevant to the Ugandan context, to explore ways civil society and government can support its adoption, and to exchange ideas on the prevention of statelessness in Uganda.
Bronwen Manby, an expert on the right to a nationality and a technical expert on the draft protocol for the AU Department of Political Affairs, started the workshop by guiding the participants through the different articles of the draft protocol. Dr Manby was followed by Marshall Alenyo, an advocate and consultant on immigration and citizenship law, who spoke on the issue of statelessness in Uganda and the relevant national legal framework. In his presentation he examined citizenship legislation and its impact on statelessness in Uganda, highlighted existing challenges, and stressed that children are at risk of statelessness in Uganda. John Amugune, a leader of the Maragoli Association, then described the particular challenges faced by the Maragoli community, who are not listed in the Ugandan constitution as one of the indigenous communities who acquire citizenship based on birth in Uganda, regarding their difficulties in accessing the new national identity cards. He stressed the need to address the root causes of statelessness, rather than resorting to temporary solutions, such as naturalisation—since in Uganda naturalised citizens who are not members of the listed communities cannot pass citizenship to their children. Speaking on regional perspectives of statelessness, Diana Gichengo, Programme Manager at the Kenya Human Rights Council (KHRC), Nairobi, highlighted the contradicting legislation and requirements for processing identification documents in Kenya. Lastly, Janemary Ruhundwa, Country Director of Asylum Access in Dar es Salaam, explained the particular challenges in Tanzania.
At the end of the workshop, several action points were agreed upon, aiming to continue engagement on promoting the eradication of statelessness in Uganda.
On national level, government participants agreed that there was a need to discuss the questions raised at the workshop within their respective departments and agencies, in order to address the issue of statelessness in Uganda. The interim focal point for statelessness with the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), from the Ministry of Justice, committed to engage with the Attorney General to seek clarity for NIRA on the issue of the Maragoli community and to engage together with Hon. Minister Ecweru on the same matter.
In addition, civil society decided to create a working group, including additional key stakeholders, aiming to develop briefings and summary findings on legislative and other reforms needed to eradicate statelessness in Uganda, as well as to facilitate discussion of the draft protocol.
The civil society participants agreed to establish stronger networks among civil society working on statelessness, citizenship, and access to identification documents in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, to learn from efforts to resolve these issues in the other countries, to promote the issue of statelessness in inter-governmental discussions within the region and particularly on EAC level, as well to raise awareness of the draft protocol.