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MPs considering constitutional amendment to recognize Maragoli tribe

Trapped and Invisible: Uganda’s Maragoli people fight for official recognition. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has started considering the Constitutional Amendment Bill seeking the recognition of the Maragoli as one of the indigenous tribes in Uganda.

Kibanda South MP Jack Odur Lutanywa, the mover of the Bill on Tuesday defended the bill before the committee citing the need to amend the Third Schedule to the Constitution to include the Maragoli who settled in Uganda in the 19th century as one of Uganda’s indigenous communities as of 1st February 1926.

The Maragoli community living in Kigumba, Kiryandongo district, Ntoma and other parts of Masindi district are a Kenyan tribe that left their homeland in the 1920’s. Reports indicate that they moved from Kenya after an agreement was reached between the then British colonial government and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.

The Maragoli have since the 1990’s sought for the inclusion in the Constitution through petitions to MPs, Ministers, different department ministries and the President. In Kiryandongo district alone, the Maragoli number is over 30,000 people.

According to Lutanywa, failure to recognize the Maragoli has left them in the condition of rejection since they cannot access some of the social services in the country like acquiring passports, National Identity Cards and others.

In 2017, the National Identification Registration Agency (NIRA) held onto 15,000 national identity cards of members of the Maragoli community on grounds that they are not a recognized tribe in Uganda.

Lutanywa appealed to the committee to approve the recognition of the Maragoli as one of the tribes in Uganda.

The Maragoli sometimes referred to as Logoli or AvaLogooli, is the second-largest tribe of the 6 million-strong Luhya community in Kenya, after the Bukusu. The dialect they speak is called Llogoli, Urulogoli, or Maragoli. Some of the Maragoli clans include the Gonda, Mavi, Sachi, Saniaga, Vulughi, Ndega, Sari”, Ng’ang’ and Yonga.

Chapter three of the 1995 Constitution provides for citizenship under Articles 9 to 19, where it provides for citizenship by birth, adoption, registration and naturalization among others. The Third Schedule to the constitution provides a list of 65 indigenous communities whose members qualify for citizenship by birth because such communities were living in Uganda as of February 1, 1926.

Bufumbira South MP Sam Bitangaro supported the proposed amendment to the Constitution saying that given the time the Maragoli came into the country, they fit into the description of an indigenous tribe. He however wondered why it had taken long to recognize the Maragoli under the Constitution.

But Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa said that rather than advocating for recognition, the Maragoli should instead promote socialization and integration with the already existing communities.

Busiki County MP Paul Akamba also wondered whether the Maragoli people currently own land and in what form.

Kaberamaido County MP Veronica Elagu wondered whether after many years of residing in Uganda and among other communities in Bunyoro, the Maragoli have kept their language or assimilated with Banyoro.

Jacob Oboth, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee chairperson said that they would hold meetings with the Maragoli people so that his committee ascertains their current status and the problems they interface.

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