If minority groups have representatives, it helps them to table issues affecting their communities, make decisions in budgeting and distribution of resources.
PIC: The deputy executive director of the Cross-cultural Foundation of Uganda, Barbra Babweteera and programme Specialist in UN Women (Uganda Office), Agripinner Mandhego (right) chat with the Batwa representative, Tumwebaze Scorah during a minority workshop at Hotel African Kampala on February 20, 2018. (Credit: Ronnie Kijjambu)
KAMPALA - Indigenous Peoples (IPs) commonly known as ‘minority tribes' in Uganda, remain marginalised despite of the various government policies to transform people's livelihood.
The commissioner culture and family affairs at the gender ministry, Juliana Akonyo Naumo, said many of the IPs remain less educated and are poor compared to other people.
She attributed this to lack of voices to front their concerns within the areas they live.
Naumo was speaking during a workshop on inclusive development in Uganda in the framework of UN declaration on the rights of IPs at Hotel Africana in Kampala last week.
They also reviewed an assessment report on legal, policy and institutional framework for IPs.
The report indicates that there are still many communities that suffer negative perceptions of their ways of life and whose traditional livelihoods or traditional use and occupation of lands are seen as backward and inconsistent with the mainstream "modern way of life".
It notes that because of this, many of the groups leave in appalling conditions due to lack of land and marginalisation.
The report notes that much of the land where of the IPs used to live was converted into conservation areas, leaving them landless.
Naumo noted that they want to ensure that all IPs' issues are included in the policy frameworks to promote equity and visibility.
"We want all these groups included in the national development framework," she noted.
Innocent Byaruhanga, the assistant commissioner, family affairs in the department of culture and family affairs in the ministry, noted that only a few groups are documented.
"Only a few like the Batwa, Benet, Tepeth and IK among others are documented. But there are many other groups which are not documented to understand their way of life," he said.
Byaruhanga said the Government and other stakeholders have the capacity of intervening to address what is affecting the IPs.
He said among their recommendations in the assessment report is to have IPs brought on board in terms of effective representation in decision-making from the local to national level.
"It is hard to find an LC1 chairman or a district councillor like from the Batwa community. But if they have representatives, it helps them to table issues affecting their communities, make decisions in budgeting and distribution of resources," he noted.
Agripinner Mandhego, the programme specialist, UN Women (Uganda office), noted that IPs in Uganda still find it difficult to access education and health services because of social exclusion in the communities they live.
She said UN women have already embarked on a programme to end violence against women and children in IPs communities.
"We want every programme to be responsive to the needs of IPs. We pledge our continued support to transform IPs' lives," Mandhego added.
The minister of state for youth and children affairs, Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi said although Uganda has not yet ratified the Declaration on the Rights of IPs, the Government has been implementing some initiatives through the 1995 Constitution and other UN Conventions.
"We need to make resolutions for a plan for inclusive development for IPs in the country. We need to tackle the cost of the historical injustices caused during the various government reforms like gazetting of forests into national parks, which were habitats for the most minority groups," Nakiwala said.
The report recommends the review of legal and policy framework on lands and resources in Uganda, most notably the laws on land, forest, mineral and other natural resources, with a view to aligning them with the new land Policy and international standards that recognise and call for redress of historical land injustices suffered by IPs.
It also calls for generation of disaggregated data on IPs to ensure their visibility in the implementation of sustainable development goals and programmes and adopting further measures enabling political presentation of IPs.
Mungech Chebet, the co-ordinator of IPs organisations, said many IPs are still landless and lack permanent homes because their land was turned into national parks.
"We want the Government to initiate measures of affirmative action for these special groups to easily access services like through offering special scholarships to IPs children and giving bursaries at university level education," he noted.