UGANDA: Parliament probing Claims of ‘gross’ abuse of Diplomatic Passports

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Parliament is probing claims that foreigners continue to acquire and use Ugandan passports in fraudulent deals across the globe; Courtesy Photo

The Parliamentary committee on Government Assurances and Implementation has directed the Ministry of internal affairs to produce a list of all Ugandans carrying diplomatic passports following claims that Red passports have been abused to the extent of issuing them to undeserving individuals.

The parliamentary committee chaired by Mukono Municipality MP, Betty Nambooze, is probing allegations that diplomatic passports have been issued to people below the dignified category of Very Important Persons(VIPs) while some holders died and their families did not return the red passports.

Appearing before the committee on Tuesday, officials from the Internal Affairs ministry led by Minister Kahinda Otafiire, were tasked to explain circumstances under which foreigners especially Nigerians get access to Ugandan passports to later commit all sorts of crime across the globe.

Legislators demanded to know what government is doing to curb illegal acquisition of Ugandan passports and expressed suspicion that some immigration officials could be conniving with foreigners and involved in fraudulent issuance of passports.

Hon Nambooze mentioned that she has reports alleging that some District Councilors have red passports.

The Director of Immigration and Citizenship, Maj Gen Apollo Kasiita Gowa, admitted that there have been challenges and 39 non-Ugandans have been apprehended for acquiring Ugandan passports illegally, and several immigration officials behind controversial issuance of passports were interdicted.

Gen Gowa told legislators that as of 21 September 2021, his office has issued 699 red passports to different people who qualify to hold them as per the existing law.

He however reported that most of people who have been found trying to acquire Ugandan passports illegally are from West Africa and Pakistan.

In Uganda, red passports are a preserve of VIPs including the President and members of the cabinet, members of the diplomatic service, senior judicial officers, officials of the Foreign Affairs ministry, senior religious leaders and some other few who enjoy diplomatic status ie traditional leaders.

However, Gen Otafiire noted that there are special cases like when a person is designated as ambassador extra-ordinary, or prepotentially -like when the president assigns anyone with duties which commensurate with requirements in the law. Other than that, Otafiire said it is unlawful for anyone to hold a red passport.

The Deputy chairperson of the committee, also Kalungu West MP Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu, demanded that the Citizenship and Immigration Authority avail the list of the passport holders within seven days for scrutiny to identify individuals holding red passports illegally.

Maj Gen Gowa pledged to produce the list of officials interdicted in the passport scam but appealed to members of the public to always follow the official procedures through which passports are acquired. He said applicants should seek physical interaction with immigration officers and defend their eligibility in order to avoid consequences of acquiring travel documents illegally.

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