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Uganda’s Indian community seeks tribal status

By Godfrey Olukya
Posted on Thursday, 6 August 2015 07:11

Sanje Tanna, Uganda’s only legislator of Indian descent and MP for Tororo municipality, this week requested that the country recognises the Indian community in the constitution.

The Indian community has made tremendous contributions towards the social-economic development in Uganda

Tanna made the proposal as parliament debated a constitutional amendment bill on Tuesday.

“We the Indians who have lived in Uganda since 1973 should be recognised as Ugandans in the constitution, as it was applied to Rwandans and Burundians,” he said.

The country’s non-indigenous Rwandan and Burundian communities have been recognised in Uganda’s constitution since 1995 as indigenous tribes.

The Indian community, according to Tanna, had already presented their views on the subject without much success.

Indians in Uganda are locally called Bayindi, and he is urging parliament to consider the Bayindi as a tribe.

But some MPs, including Reagan Okumu and Maggie Mongin, have rejected Tanna’s plea, saying they should be only be recognised as citizens but not as a tribe.

Mongin advised Tanna to drop the idea.

“We are all migrants in this country.

“I came from Ethiopia. We are part of the Israel community. The clause needd to be amended to consider all inhabitants,” MP Geoffrey Ekanya said in support of Tanna’s bid.

Other MPs have thrown their weight behind Tanna’s proposal.

“The Indian community has made tremendous contributions towards the social-economic development in Uganda.

“Some were here as far back as 1926. They should be recognised as a tribe,” legislator Robert Kafero weighed in.

The debate, which promises to attract a lot of attention, has been adjourned to a later date is a far cry from 1972 when Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, expelled Asians from Uganda.

Most of Uganda’s Indian community returned after Idi Amin’s ouster in 1979.

Indians first came to Uganda in the late 1800s and early 1900s during the colonial era as construction labourers.

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