Upgrade UAE Mission, MPs asked

Uganda’s Embassy in the UAE has appealed to Members of Parliament to push for an upgrade of the Mission to medium or large-scale status to enable it handle the increased volume of services required in the Middle East.

The Embassy located on Al Fala Street in Abu Dhabi, UAE, although not accredited, ends up offering services in both Oman and Bahrain, countries covered by Riyadh, Saudi Arabia due to proximity. With only three staff including an Ambassador and two officers, the embassy serves up to 42,000 Ugandans in UAE; a number going up due to increasing labour exports to the country.

Embassy officials on Monday met a delegation of MPs on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, staff from Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry and private investors in UAE for the Uganda - UAE Business Forum. The meeting was held at the Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Dr. Sam Omara, the Acting Head of Mission, said that it was set up for commercial and economic diplomacy in 2009 but now provides consular services as well due to increasing numbers of Ugandans in the region.

“The staff to people ratio is 1: 14,000, which is very high. We appeal to the Committee on Foreign Affairs to recommend that the Mission’s establishment is upgraded to either a medium or large scale,” said Dr. Omara.

Upgrading of a mission falls under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a docket that is under the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. The upgrade would come with an increase of the budget and of staffing levels to  be in position to handle the increased workload.

Dr. Omara also asked that the MPs push for accreditation of the Embassy to provide diplomatic and consular services to Ugandans in both Oman and Bahrain, which are too far and not easily accessible by the Embassy in Riyadh.

“It sometimes requires one to fly from Riyadh to those places, but because of the shortage of funds, it is sometimes not practical to travel and offer services to Ugandans in distress in those countries. From here (Abu Dhabi), we can drive (to Oman) but we are not accredited to offer the services in those countries,” said Dr. Omara.

Dr. Omara informed the visiting delegation that President Museveni had appointed former MP, Hon. Zaake Kibedi as the Ambassador and his credentials had been accepted by UAE. He is due to start work next month.

The Ag. Ambassador said he was happy that the UAE government had offered amnesty to Ugandans living in the country, but having no necessary visas, to regularize their stay. He said that up to 60 Ugandans had taken up the offer and paid a fine of 500 dirhams (Shs 480,000), with some of them returning to Uganda while others staying to work in UAE. The three-month amnesty expires on 31 October 2018.

The First Secretary at the Embassy, Tony Awany, asked the legislators to implore NIRA to visit the country so as to issue national identification cards to Ugandans, especially now that the identification is a requirement for one to get or renew their passports.

The Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs,  promised to forward their requests to the House and hoped that more Ugandans, especially the professionals, will travel and work in the Uganda Arab Emirates.