February 26, 2019

The “Ugandan” Whose Rwandan Passport Cannot Be Renewed

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President Paul Kagame hugs an elderly woman who sought to meet him as his Nyamagabe visit ended

A man who identifies himself as Ssezi Julius Amina, has reported the Immigration and Emigration Directorate to President Paul Kagame, accusing the agency of refusing to give him a new passport.

Ssezi says he lives in “Byumba” with many other members of his family, referring to Gicumbi district, in north-western Rwanda, neighbouring Uganda’s Kabale district.

President Kagame was today in Nyamagabe district, on the final leg of his two-day tour of the Southern Province.

The President was also in Huye district yesterday, where he held a lengthy closed door meeting with officials and local opinion leaders.

In Nyamagabe, along with more than 20,000 other locals, Ssezi Julius Amina gathered in a stadium.

After his speech, like the routine is when he visits upcountry regions, Kagame gave opportunity for people to ask questions and interact on domestic issues concerning them.

One by one, they came on the microphone: women, men, the elderly and the young. Ssezi Julius Amina took to the mic as well.

Speaking in Kinyarwanda, with an accent common among people from Uganda, he introduced himself and went on to explain his problem.

He said he is an “expert” who had worked as researcher on the government’s social grading scheme; UBUDEHE.

He said he had submitted his old passport and other documents for renewal, but he has not been granted the documents for months now.

“I was sent away three times as they asked for more documents and even for witnesses, because they claim I am not Rwandan,” he said. “I came from Uganda with my family, but we are Rwandans and all our ancestors were Rwandan.”

In his intervention, President Kagame asked whether there was anybody among the officials present, who knew about the issue.

Judith Uwizeye, the Minister in the Office of the President rose up. She said her office was aware. She said the man himself had also written an official letter to the Presidency over the issue.

“Your Excellency, we followed up his case with other sources and confirmed that he is not Rwandan,” said Minister Uwizeye.

“We informed him about the details we had obtained. We also informed him that if he wants to obtain Rwandan citizenship, there was a legally established process which he should start working on to get his passport.”

Ssezi Julius Amina, on the microphone, armed with documents, claimed he had been refused anew Rwandan passport

As the Minister spoke, Ssezi interjected: “I am a Rwandan, why do they want to make me a foreigner?”

President Kagame told the man that nobody would strip him of Rwandan ancestry if indeed he were Rwandan. “I have heard your side of the story, I had to find out from other possible sources,” said Kagame.

“Firstly, the law has established what is based on to determine the Rwandan ancestry of a claimant, and that will be done. Secondly, if it is determined that you are not Rwandan, there is also a simple process for you to obtain citizenship. So do not worry,” Kagame added.

It is the first time that such a case of claims of nationality has been handled in such a public manner.

Although unrelated, the case of this “Uganda” born individual comes at a time when relations between Uganda and Rwanda are worsening.

President Kagame recently said the situation has been caused by Uganda’s backing of Rwandan dissidents in South Africa.

Rwandans have been dumped at the border – accused of being spies.

Others have been kidnapped and never heard from again. Some have come back to Rwanda with gruesome wounds, which they say were inflicted on them by Ugandan security operatives.

Several top managers of telecom giant MTN Uganda, including the CEO and a Rwandan-born manager have been deported out of Uganda. The Rwandan manager was put on a Rwanda-bound flight back home.

They are accused of compromising Uganda security, but Uganda has not provided evidence of these allegations.

In Rwanda, there have not been any cases of Ugandans being abused. No one has been deported. Thousands of Ugandans are involved in nearly all sectors of the country.

News surfaced last week in local media that over 100 “Ugandan teachers” had been found in eastern Rwanda without official work permits.

Several months ago, a local publication The New Times laid-off several of its employees citing tough economic conditions. Reports followed in Uganda that the lay off was targeting “Ugandans”.

Back to the case of Ssezi Julius Amina, who wants his Rwandan passport renewed, it remains to be seen what will follow.

He has to file his documents with the same immigration department for another review.


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