Immigrants and refugees in Uganda’s political economy

Radio Munansi English program February 3, 2013

This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York.

Greetings: Fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well wishers. Welcome to the program. We look forward to your active participation.

In our discussion on population growth in Uganda, we observed that in preparing the 2010 State of population vital information on people entering and leaving Uganda was scarce and therefore not analyzed in terms of migrant and refugee contribution to Uganda’s population growth and impact on land, business, jobs, social services and environmental degradation etc. Migrants and refugees have been part of Uganda’s political economy since the early 1920s and the early 1960s respectively.

Let us begin with migration.

A combination of push factors in neighboring countries especially in Rwanda and Burundi and pull factors in Uganda led to huge labor migration into Uganda.

The job opportunities that opened up in Uganda as a result of growing export crops of cotton and coffee attracted male labor from neighboring countries particularly Rwanda and Burundi where economic and political conditions were less favorable than in Uganda. These migrant workers found jobs in areas of their comparative advantage: Hutu workers were employed as crop cultivators and Tutsi as cattle herders. They settled mostly in Ankole, Buganda and Busoga. Some returned home after a short while, others stayed permanently. Hutu laborers that stayed behind married women in the community of their settlement, learned the local language, adopted local culture including names and fairly integrated socially. On the other hand, Tutsi married Tutsi or Hima women and generally kept aloof, retaining their culture including attire. Migrant workers also came mostly from Kenya. Thus, migrant workers have contributed to Uganda’s population growth and characteristics. At one time in Buganda with the largest migrant workers, there were more men than women. Under normal circumstances, females are more numerous than males.

As the population grew the demand for land, job opportunities and social services increased as well, leading to conflicts. Indigenous populations complained that foreigners were squeezing them as they occupied land and sent their children to school and their sick members to health facilities.

Regarding land in particular, Ugandans complained that immigrant workers were taking Uganda land from indigenous owners and demanded they be sent back to their countries of origin.

These problems of land, jobs and social services continued into and got worse in post-colonial Uganda. The employment was particularly serious as there were fewer jobs than the demand for work by the economically active Ugandans.

In 1970, the UPC government acted by deciding to Ugandanize employment which meant expelling non-Ugandan workers. The decision generated a political storm because governments in Kenya and Tanzania being members of the East African community objected to the decision.

Of the 295, 000 workers employed in the wage earning sector, 80,000 were non-Ugandans and the largest single group was from Kenya dominated by Luo workers that numbered about 20,000. Many of the workers were pensioned off, retired or simply sacked, unleashing a trade unions war between Kenya and Uganda.

Trade unionists in Kenya threatened to cut off imports to Uganda through the port of Mombasa. In response, Uganda trade unionists threatened to cut off electricity supply to Kenya.

In the end, UPC government softened the implementation of the policy but many Kenyan workers had already left.

Uganda soldiers were watching and compiling justification should they remove Obote and his government from power. The labor dispute was among the 18 reasons given when UPC government was overthrown in 1971.

Thus, this economic labor conflict spilled over into Uganda politics. Reason number twelve given by Amin soldiers for overthrowing the Obote government was the expulsion of Kenyan workers from Uganda that isolated Uganda and undermined economic relations among the East African community member states.

More specifically, the soldiers stated that “The tendency to isolate the country [Uganda] from East African unity, e.g. by sending away workers from Kenya and Tanzania; by preventing the use of Uganda money in Kenya and Tanzania; by discouraging imports from Kenya and Tanzania, by stopping the use in Uganda of Kenyan or Tanzania money” was given as one of the reasons why the soldiers overthrew the UPC government in 1971.

The lesson that we can draw from this is that as we discuss Uganda’s participation in the East African economic integration and political federation, we should keep in mind the need to minimize conflict over land ownership and to ensure jobs go to Ugandans first. Given that land is the main asset and source of livelihood for the majority of Ugandans that are functionally illiterate for work outside agriculture, land should be excluded from negotiations because land is a national security issue.

Regarding negotiations for East African federation in the early 1960s, the Uganda position was that it would not compromise on land and agriculture. This sector, among others, would remain the sole responsibility of member states, the government asserted. The government added that “Inter-territorial movement of people must be controlled to protect Uganda against being swamped by Kenya’s urban unemployed”(S. Diamond and F. G. Burke 1966). With the community expanded regulation of movement of people should include those from Rwanda and Burundi. Excluding sectors of national interest from negotiations is common. During negotiations for the 1975 Lome Convention between African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) on the one hand and the European community (now European Union) on the other, the Europeans objected to negotiating the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and within the European Union the UK government has not accept the Euro. Some European and other countries around the world are controlling entry of immigrants and deporting those already in their countries. These are national security issues and every government has an obligation to protect the country and its people including Uganda.

Regarding refugees, Uganda has been a haven since the early 1960s mostly from Rwanda that began with the 1959 Social Revolution that was sparked by Tutsi youth when they assaulted a Hutu local chief because they objected to his appointment. As soon as Tutsi refugees arrived in Uganda they began guerrilla attacks by Inyenzi fighters forcing more Tutsi to flee Rwanda into Uganda as the Hutu-led government retaliated.

Some of the refugees to the tune of one-third and their cattle settled with kith and kin and friends putting tremendous pressure on land and pasture, jobs and social services as well as the environment through de-vegetation.

The British colonial authority expressed serious concern that “It was impossible to accommodate such a large number of illegal immigrants with their cattle anywhere in the country, particularly since western Uganda was already overstocked, overgrazed, lacked water, and had not been totally reclaimed from the tsetse fly; and that the cattle that the Tutsi brought with them were diseased and would spread cattle disease in the country” (Adelman and Suhrke (2000).

However, some members of the Legislative Council argued on humanitarian grounds that it was wrong to deny Tutsi asylum. Milton Obote spoke passionately in support of giving asylum to Tutsi refugees. He said in part “I am pleading for the whole of the Batutsi tribe [sic] who came to Uganda to seek for safety. … [and] I am pleading on behalf of the people of Uganda” (Adelman and Suhrke 2000) that Tutsi be granted asylum, if only he knew what was in store for him. Kangaho another member of the Legislative Council (LEGCO) pleaded that Tutsi refugees be allowed to come and stay in Uganda. Despite the obvious overcrowding and overgrazing situation in Ankole, Kangaho assured the LEGCO that the district would be able to accommodate all the refugees and their livestock.

Refugees were allowed to enter Uganda with their cattle and initially settled in Ankole and Kigezi, a third of them integrating with kith and kin and friends. From these two districts they moved to all parts of Uganda with their cattle. Although accurate statistics are not available as some refugees were not registered, it is reported from UNHCR records that between 1981 and 1985 there were 118,000 refugees from Rwanda alone.

The late Kabaka of Buganda Mutesa II invited the deposed Rwanda king on humanitarian grounds, opening the door for many refugees to enter and settle in Buganda. The drought and overcrowding in Ankole forced many more refugees and other pastoralists to move to Buganda and other parts of Uganda and settle in rural and urban areas.

It was understood that this invitation of Tutsi refugees in Uganda was temporary and that they would soon return to their home country. However, it turned out not to be the case.

The large number of refugees put pressure on land, business, jobs and social services and the environment and disputes increased with indigenous people who complained that in some cases refugees were better taken care of than them. “In Buganda, for example, many Baganda peasants complained bitterly that immigrants and refugees took their land and demanded [their] expulsion”( Adelman and Suhrke 2000).

In Ankole apart from conflict over land, jobs and social services and environmental damage, the situation took on ethnic and political dimensions.

The Hutu people of Rwanda are cousins of Bairu people of Ankole. Bairu were therefore unhappy to see that Nilotic Tutsi who had dominated, exploited, marginalized and humiliated their Bantu Hutu cousins since the 15th century under a feudal system were being accommodated and given land, jobs and places in schools and treated better than them.

As Ogenga Otunnu has observed “The arrival of Tutsi refugees in the 1950s and 1960s coincided with increased power struggles between the Hima and Bairu in Ankole (Karugire 1993, 73-74). One of the strategies the Hima employed to maintain their waning hegemony over the Bairu was to recruit their cousins, the Tutsi, to swell their ranks. This strategy brought Tutsi refugees into power struggles in Ankole.

“[Further], the alliance between the predominantly Catholic Tutsi and the Catholic dominated Democratic Party (DP) in Ankole turned some Banyankole members of UPC, who were predominantly Protestants, against the Tutsi. These factors pressured the local UPC establishment in Ankole to ask the government to enforce the law of the land by keeping the refugees out of local and national politics. Some Banyankole, both Hima and Bairu, also demanded that the refugees be relocated from Ankole because they were taking away land, jobs, and social services from the host communities” (Adelman and Suhrke 2000).

In former Kigezi district, the coming of Tutsi refugees put tremendous pressure on already overstretched carrying capacity of natural resources especially land. To ease pressure, it was decided to resettle some of them including Tutsi refugees to parts of Ankole and northern Kigezi including in Rujumbura area. The local communities in Rujumbura were not consulted. The new settlers were given land belonging to indigenous people that had temporarily been abandoned because of tsetse fly invasion.

As population increased, there was competition for land, jobs and social services. One of the ways to ease this problem was to expand Rukungiri town municipality deep into Bairu territory under the pretext they were creating a new constituency to improve representation. The new municipal boundaries excluded Nyakagyeme which is closer to town because as reported the Member of Parliament, General Jim Muhwezi, a Tutsi, who hails from Nyakagyeme doesn’t want his land and his Tutsi people to be incorporated into and be inconvenienced and dispossessed by the municipality. The expansion of the municipality was rejected by Bairu people because it was not done properly through the ministry of local government which has responsibility for district affairs. The Rujumbura member of parliament had no authority to make a presentation to parliament. And parliament should not have accepted a presentation by a member of parliament. Bairu objections were presented to the speaker of parliament and leader of opposition in parliament. This is a decision we hope will be reversed. We appeal to the ministry of local government to stop Rukungiri municipality from selling disputed land.

Museveni’s principal goal for capturing power in Uganda and overthrowing Bantu-led governments in Rwanda, Burundi and DRC is to find space for his Nilotic Tutsi people who are largely landless. That is why creating a Tutsi Empire is important for Museveni.

The 1995 constitution of Uganda includes a section that allows people to move and settle anywhere in Uganda and speak their own language. This was primarily enshrined in the constitution with Tutsi refugees and illegal Tutsi immigrants in mind. Accordingly, Tutsi are everywhere occupying other people’s land by trickery such as willing seller and willing or at gun point. The Buliisa case in Bunyoro is a good example. Land and property grabbed from indigenous owners will be returned when the NRM regime is out of power. Those involved and their children should be aware of this. We are therefore writing about these things to have a record for easy reference in the future because a written word never dies.

Baganda have been demanding their land and forests but instead Kampala was expanded into Buganda land to create Greater Kampala much of it to be owned by Tutsi with lots of money and facilitated by the office of the president that has management responsibility for Greater Kampala rather than the Lord Mayor. Ugandans are being robbed of their land and property at gun point by Tutsi who are considered to have settled in Uganda illegally.

In 1989 Ugandans complained to the president to stop land grab by Tutsi and instructions were issued in 1990 but lacked enforcement mechanism and land grabbing continued uninterrupted.

To gain support of Ugandans, Tutsi have arranged for influential or potentially influential Ugandans to marry Tutsi women, become tutsified and work in the interest of Tutsi.

On August 6, 1962, Tutsi adopted “Covenants of the Tutsi Dynasty” initially targeting Hutu men but now targeting other men in the Great Lakes region. In covenant number 5 it is stated that “Since we [Tutsi] cannot replace Hutu representatives just elected and put our own people in their place, let’s make them our friends. We must conquer them by offering them gifts, especially alcohol beverages that will allow us to win secrets out of them. Offer them our girls, and if necessary, do not hesitate to arrange marriage with them. They will not resist our daughters’ angelic beauty”.

There are allegations subject to confirmation that when Tutsi women marry non-Tutsi men, they have children with Tutsi men so that in the end the Tutsi replace or reduce significantly the number of non-Tutsi population. If this is true it is advised that non-Tutsi husbands take paternity tests to ensure they don’t raise someone else’s children.

That Tutsi are determined to dispossess and impoverish Ugandans was eloquently stated by Sam Njuba, a former minister in Museveni administration. In his conversation with a [Uganda] Observer reporter Njuba said that “These people [Tutsi] have their own agenda and they know what they want.

“They have continued grabbing everything. They will continue to grab and grab until a doctor advises that stealing is too bad. There is a common term they use these days. It is counseling. They must be counseled. They are from poor backgrounds and everything they see they want to steal it. They grab land, they build hotels, they have hospitals, they have banks” (Observer October 11, 2009).

Yet Tutsi complain that as minority in the Great Lakes region they are victimized and they even suffered genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and they need western protection, military training and weapons in order to defend themselves in a hostile environment. They conveniently ignore that Tutsi committed genocide against Hutu in Burundi in 1965, 1972, 1988 and 1993. They also ignore the human atrocities they committed against the people of Uganda during Amin regime and in the Luwero Triangle, Northern and Eastern Uganda. If you add on the deaths caused by ignoring the health system and the associated re-emergence of diseases that had disappeared and death from malnutrition because we have to export food to earn foreign exchange, you will see that Tutsi-led NRM government of Museveni has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and the leaders concerned should be indicted for these crimes.

Tutsi refugees have meddled in Uganda security and political affairs. Obote complained that “Most atrocities during Amin’s era were committed by refugees. … Many refugees voted in the December 1980 elections. … Refugees have been found to flirt with terrorists in the Luwero District and are responsible for the unrest there. … If refugees particularly those from Rwanda do not reciprocate our hospitality … Ugandans may order their government to build camps for them. … Alternatively, we shall tell them to go”(Adelman and Suhrke 2000).

Instead of Obote chasing Tutsi out of Uganda, the Tutsi with assistance of the Okellos chased Obote out of Uganda in July 1985, and then Museveni and his Tutsi mercenaries chased the Okellos out of power in January 1986.

Since 1986, Tutsi and tutsified Ugandans have misruled Uganda. They are now pushing us into a Tutsi Empire disguised as East African federation. Museveni and Kagame have called for a borderless East African community as a step towards Tutsi Empire.

It is advised that as we negotiate East African economic integration and political federation, we should uphold what the Obote government proposed namely land and agriculture should remain Uganda responsibilities and inter-territorial population (human and livestock) mobility must be regulated. Land ownership and use are not negotiable and Uganda borders are inviolable.

The East African community does not make sense if it doesn’t bring net benefits to Uganda. Getting East African passport and increasing population pool of impoverished people when Uganda has virtually nothing to sell except food which reduces supplies at home and causes malnutrition and neurological disabilities, does not make sense.

Since colonial days East African trade has been monopolized by Kenya with a sizeable manufacturing sector and surplus for sale. Uganda has harvested deficits in trade and jobs. Illegal migrants and skilled migrants have taken land, jobs, business and strained social services. Because they are functionally illiterate, Ugandans are unable to compete. As a result youth unemployment is over 80 percent. This situation is unacceptable. The new government will need to design a policy and strategy that put Ugandans first. This is a matter of national security.