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Ministry ordered to issue National IDs to multiracial persons

By Michael Odeng

Added 13th June 2017 09:36 AM

The ruling followed a complaint filed by a Ugandan of an Asian origin on behalf of half-castes in Uganda

Ministry ordered to issue National IDs to multiracial persons

The ruling followed a complaint filed by a Ugandan of an Asian origin on behalf of half-castes in Uganda

The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) tribunal has ordered the Ministry of Internal Affairs to give national IDs and passports to multiracial persons.

The tribunal presided over by Joel Cox Ojuko directed that government prompts officials of the ministry to treat all Ugandans equally not withstanding their skin colour, especially in the processing of passports and National IDs.

"The ministry should desist from violating the rights of multi-racial communities in Uganda and its officials should perform the function of the Directorate of Immigration and Citizenship without discrimination," he ruled.

The ruling followed a complaint filed by one Yasin Omari, a Ugandan of an Asian origin on behalf of half-castes in Uganda, alleging that on various occasions they have been subjected to discrimination by ministry officials during the process of registration, renewal of passports and National IDs, hence violating their rights to citizenship.

According to Omari, the acting chairperson of the multi-racial community of Uganda, they are also denied access to political appointments yet they are also stake holders of the country.

Omari had sued the Attorney General (AG), who is the principal legal adviser to the government.

Ojuko further directed the ministry officials to grant citizenship by registration to the mixed races in accordance with Article 12 of the Constitution and Section 14 of the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Act.

He stated that each party will bear its own costs and that the AG has a right to appeal against his decision to the High Court within 30 days.

The case was heard ex-parte (one party) since AG declined to file a defence on the above matter regardless of the receipt of service and various calls made to the AG from the commission.

Court documents indicate that state attorney Bichachi Ojiambo was in personal conduct of the complaint.  

According to the commission lawyer Bernadette Nalule, for failure by the ministry officials to comply with the directive, they will be prosecuted for disobedience of lawful orders in the courts of law.

Earlier, Omari testified that in 2015, his children's passports were rejected for renewal on grounds that they were not Ugandans, until he sought the intervention of Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, who instructed the said officials to process passports for them. His children are Omari Yasin, 20, and Latifah Yasin 18.  

Ojuko observed that the Constitution emphasises the prohibition of all forms of racial discrimination which must be respected, upheld and promoted by all individuals, organs and agencies of Government.

The complainant's witness Arafat Hamid Abdullah, 42, also testified that his application forms for a National ID were rejected by the ministry officials, alleging that they were forged and they could not be entered in the system.

He further stated that his academic qualifications in support of the documents were equally rejected without any justification, until he sought the intervention of President Yoweri Museveni.

Others, whose application for National IDs were rejected include Alli Seif Abdul Wahab 24, and Hamed Feher   

However, investigations by Savio Kakooza, the EOC investigation officer, established the complainant's application for national IDs were rejected on grounds that their nationalities were questionable in spite of clear proof of their Ugandan citizenship by birth.

The tribunal discovered that the complainants were able to acquire passports and National IDs after seeking intervention of the President or Prime Minister or paying sh500,000, which Ojok said contravenes the principle of equal treatment of all people before the law.

Shortly after the decision, Omari said it is a land mark ruling for the marginalized people.

"As half castes, we've been disturbed for so long. You find someone with the Ugandan birth certificate and does not even know the language where you think he/she originates from but being rejected to register for national identity card and passport," he said.

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