By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

On 23 December 2021 I read in The Washington Post an article titled “US  passports about to get more expensive” written by Amanda Finnegan. I leant that the price for a full-time or replacement adult passport was to be $ 165, a renewal was to be  $ 130.

The expedited fee, which enables one to get a passport weeks earlier remained at $60. The State Department explained that the fee increase was necessary to ensure that they continued to produce one of the most secure travel and identity documents in the World”.

I understood this to mean that the passport could not be pirated by thugs, or that it could not be owned by non-citizens or non-nationals.

What I did not know was that the Uganda Government of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni was almost simultaneously revising the fees for passports. I have yet to understand why the fees were hiked.

Uganda Passport is one of the most insecure travel and identity documents in the World. Many foreigners, including refugees, have accessed it and travelled to and fro foreign countries as if they are Ugandan Nationals and/or Citizens, either given to them officially by the Immigration Department, or pirated. It is unlikely the the reasoning for raising the passport fee in Uganda was the same as that the US Government gave for the fee for the American passport.

Why the hike in passport fees then, if not to make it secure Ike the Americans reasoned they wanted  theirs to be? I don’t know. Most likely the target was either to make the passport out of reach of the majority of the increasingly poorer Ugandans who do not have a lot of money to spend  on travel documents or who hardly travel out of the country, or to make money from the well-to-do who travel abroad, or the unemployed Ugandans seeking employment abroad, mainly in the Arab World.

The Uganda passport now costs UShs250,000 for normal application or UShs400,000 for express application, UShs400 for official application and UShs500,000 for diplomatic passports.

Clearly, the poor can never hope to acquire passports. Similarly the majority of Ugandans have not acquired the National Identity Card, although why one should have a passport and a National Identity Card to the same end is intriguing and unreasonable.

Despite President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s declared wish to turn Uganda into a modern middle-income country, Uganda is boasting of far more poverty than wealth. In fact, poverty is going up, not down and the wealth is increasingly concentrated in a small portion of our population of ethnically and genealogically related families.

Opportunity international says in Uganda 41% of the people are victims of poverty, living below the poverty line on less than $ 1.90 a day.  76% of the population of 44.3 millions  live in rural areas, 73% of the population etch a living from agriculture, where they are even being displaced from their arable land by land grabbers from mainly Western Uganda; and only 33% of the country’s population have bank accounts.

So the majority of people do not have money to own passports. They can only manifest like prisoners in a gigantic prison called Uganda or, at worst, as a floating population of internally generated refugees only good enough to provide cheap labor to so-called foreign investors, or to the local landgrabbers who have displaced them from their cultural land, and now manifest as the new settlers just transmuted from nomadic pastoral human energy system, with no cultural attachment to the land they are grabbing uncontrollably.

I do not need to over-emphasize that we now have people belonging to a very small portion of our population, including those who have unfairly accessed our citizenship and nationality, being the ones with the opportunity and the money to afford possessing Ugandan passports.

The absolute majority are excluded from possessing  passports. This is akin to crude apartheid that existed in South Africa during the domination of blacks by a small ethnic group of white supremacists. Blacks were confined to ecologically unproductive land and could not access passports.

It is not acceptable in the 21st Century. Ugandans must resist it, or else they lose their citizenship, nationality and country to foreigners, some masquerading as citizens and Nationals.

Let’s ask: Why should a passport be inaccessible to the absolute ordinary Ugandans, and for those who acquire it, why should it not be a full-time, instead of a ten-year possession? why impose a financial barrier to possession of a passport by hiking the fee?

For God and My Country

The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist
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