Jul 05, 2013

Batwa: Marginalized Group In Need Of Empowerment

Solomon Akugizibwe writes about the poor situation of minority groups in Uganda and urges the government to change the situation.

Below is an article published by Daily Monitor:

The 1995 Constitution (Chapter 4) clearly defines and protects the rights of the marginalised and minority groups because inclusion of the minorities in governance is a fundamental requirement for any democratic society.

Article 36 states, “Minorities have a right to participate in decision making processes and their views and interests shall be taken into account in the making of the national plans and programmes.”

However, no clear affirmative action has been instituted to ensure effective participation of the minority groups in the local government planning, budgeting and decision making processes.

The Uganda Local Government Act (1997) which aims at decentralising power from the central government to the grassroots doesn’t provide any position in the district or sub-county councils for a representative of the minority community.

Since the minority communities remain outside the mainstream governance institutions, they have remained poor and ignorant. 
The dominant communities have even tried to forcefully grab communal land for the benefit of their own kinsmen for instance in Kasese District conflicts have been widespread between the Basongora indigenous minority tribe and Bakonjo dominant tribe over land. Such conflicts have led to the invasion of an environmentally sensitive area such as the Queen Elizabeth National Park.

In Budibugyo District, the minority Batwa communities are not represented at both Sub county and district councils. In Kasese District, the Banyabindi are also not represented at all on both at the district and subcounty councils. Still in Kasese, in a district council of over 50 councilors, the Basongora are only represented by one person whose impact is almost negligible because voting on vital service delivery and other governance issues is based on numbers. 

Health units, roads, water points, etc are constructed in areas with the highest concentration of the dominant community suffocating minority tribes of vital service delivery.

Surprisingly, the minority communities especially in Kasese (Basongora, Banyabindi, Banyanyanja and Bakingwe) faced both colonial and post-colonial injustices because their ancestral lands used for communal grazing were taken up by the government to set up Queen Elizabeth National Park, Mubuku and Ibuga prison farms, Ibuga Refugee Settlement Scheme, Hima Army Production Farm, Mubuku Irrigation Scheme, Hima Cement Factory among others. The indigenous minority communities were displaced from their ancestral lands without compensation.

All the above injustices are against both national and international legal minority rights frameworks for minority communities’ rights. 

To uplift the livelihoods of the minority communities, there is need for an affirmative action to ensure minorities are included in all the democratic engagements at both local and central government levels. This can be done through ‘ring fencing’ some political and maybe civil service positions for the minorities similar to what Tanzania has done for the Albino community.