Legislators have passed a motion that recognises ethnic minorities and called for specific laws to that protect them. The motion that was moved by Hon Hellen Asamo (PWDS, Eastern) also calls for recognition and protection of the unique languages, culture and customs of minority communities in Uganda.
Asamo said that the ethnic minorities in the country have no representation in the local governments they occupy and have been side-lined in the access to national services and resources.
“The Batwa and the Ik for example are marginalised when it comes to accessing education because the languages of instruction in the schools are those that they are not familiar with,” she said.
She said that this forces people from these groups to learn languages and sometimes culture of the predominant tribes and abandoning their own culture.
Asamo added that the minorities people face difficulties in assimilation into society when they moved from their habitats in the forests where they have been engaging in a hunter-gathering lifestyle.
“They face a cultural shock because most of them have no understanding of agriculture and are financially incapable of acquiring land,” she said.
She said that the motion seeks to acknowledge these minorities by lifting their status to the level of other Ugandan tribes.
Hon. Janet Grace Okori-moe (NRM, Abim district) who seconded the motion said that these minorities are ignored yet they have people who are as capable as those from other tribes.
“Through hardship, engineers and doctors among other professionals have emerged from these minorities but have not been recognised when it comes to things like political appointments,” she said.
Hon. Joshua Anywarach (Indep, Padyere) said that the motion should urge the Registration Act to recognise all the ethnic minorities as indigenous groups and citizens by decent.
He said that the acknowledgment of the minorities elevates their status on the international scene for them to benefit from the forms of affirmative action meant for them.
“In a UNESCO conference, it was proposed that these minority groups are recognised by their home states so that they can benefit from projects, resources and other amenities tailored for minority groups,” Anywarach added.
Mitooma District Woman Representative, Hon. Jovah Kamateeka said that, ‘much as it is important to acknowledge the minority groups which the constitution already does, focusing more on them could widen the rift between people based on tribal sentiments’.
“We should be looking for more ways that unite us and make us patriotic rather than focusing on the small tribal set ups that make us different; what is more important is that we identify as Ugandans,” she added.
Kamateeka said that the focus should be put on extending social services to the minority groups other than elevating them.