Court orders govt to issue citizenship to 'Ugandans' of Somali origin

The High Court in Kampala has ordered the Immigration Office to give people of Somali origin Ugandan citizenship.

Somalis of Ugandan origin

The judgement, based on each Somali fulfilling the requirements of citizenship, was issued by Justice Musa Ssekaana and follows a case filed in 2019 by seven members of the Somali Community in Uganda.

The seven Somali were co-petitioners in the case with Multiracial Community Uganda (MCU) Ltd after the said Somali seven had been denied citizenship by Ugandan authorities.

The seven members of the Somali community who were denied citizenship are Abdu Abucar Hussein, Abdullah Ahmed Shiek, Yahaya Yusuf, Hirsi Mohamed, Abdinassir Hussein Shire, Mohamed Abduwel Abdulla and Ahmed Noor Osman.

According to Uganda’s nationality law, Ugandan citizenship can be obtained at birth or later in life through naturalisation or registration.

Typically, in Uganda, provisions to acquire nationality through "jus soli", i.e., by birth in the territory, require that a person have ancestry with a particular racial or ethnic background.

Naturalisation can be granted to persons who have resided in Uganda for a sufficient period of time to confirm they understand the English or another language of Uganda, the customs and traditions of the country and the responsibilities of citizenship.

The seven Somalis were born in Uganda and to Ugandan parents, who, they said, had lived in Uganda throughout their lives.

As a result of their being denied citizenship, the Somalis sued government after the Immigration Office.

However, the Immigration Office reportedly said they could only acquire citizenship once they have been naturalised into the community. But the Somali even declined, saying they were born in Uganda and so did not need to be naturalised.

The Immigration Office then inquired of the Attorney General regarding the matter and the latter reportedly said if they could prove they were born in Uganda, they should be given citizenship by birth.

However, the Directorate of Immigration and Citizenship and the National Identification and Registration Authority rejected their citizenship by birth and entitlements to documents like passport and national identity cards (IDs).

On March 15, 2007, the deputy passport control officer, Anthony Namara wrote to all processing officers saying that “any immigration officers worth his salt must be able to tell a non-citizen from an indigenous person."

He further stated that "other tribes like the Somalis, Indians, Yemenis can never be citizens by birth unless there was an inter-marriage with local communities as listed in the Constitution," he said.

The seven Somalis were represented by Francis Gimara, Lastone Gulume and Elias Habakurama and Plasto Byabakama while government was represented by Charity Nabaasa.

In his ruling, Ssekaana also found that the seven Somalis were born in Uganda.

“…and those born to parents or grandparents who at the time of birth were a citizen of Uganda are citizens of Uganda by birth and should be declared as such upon providing the required documentation,” said Ssekaana.

He also ordered that the seven Somalis and other members of the Uganda Somali community that qualify for citizenship by birth are entitled to citizenship.

Ssekaana further ruled that the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control grant national identity cards to eligible applicants who are Ugandans of Somali origin as citizens by birth.

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