MPs press Govt on return of stranded Ugandans in Myanmar, Egypt, India

Government is working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to secure the release and repatriation of Ugandans held hostage by rebel groups in Myanmar, according to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.

She said a number of East African countries have nationals stranded in Myanmar, and efforts are in place to rescue them, with four Ugandans already liberated.

“Most of the people they are taking are youth who are well trained especially IT graduates. However, IOM promised that they are going to engage with the Government of Myanmar to see how our youth can be rescued,” said Nabbanja.

She made the remarks following a report on the matter by the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. John Mulimba, during the plenary sitting on Thursday 08 February 2024.

The Prime Minister also urged leaders across the country to sensitise Ugandans to avoid falling victim to unknown job opportunities.

AUDIO: Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja

According to the minister’s statement, 30 individuals have been recorded to be held at two different rebel camps in Myanmar, having initially responded to adverts on fictitious websites for highly paying jobs.

“After receiving social media reports, the Prime Minister directed that Police undertakes investigations to identify the traffickers and prosecute them accordingly,” said Mulimba.

He added that following the Prime Minister’s guidance to Uganda’s Ambassador in Malaysia to engage authorities in Myanmar, the Ambassador requested for Shs102 million to facilitate travel for bilateral meetings, which was not provided.

Mulimba revealed that at the sidelines of the recent 19th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Kampala, he held a bilateral meeting with H.E Than Swe, the Deputy Prime Minister and Union Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar.

“The Myanmar Foreign Minister undertook to waive any fine and criminal cases that would have been preferred against those Ugandans. It was agreed that the two countries create cooperation frameworks in immigration and anti-human trafficking,” said Mulimba.

AUDIO: Minister John Mulimba

The minister told MPs that there are about 60 Ugandans stranded in Egypt after the government there tigthened its regularisation of stay and another 200 in India. Most of the stranded in India are female victims of human trafficking

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Muwada Nkunyingi (NUP, Kyadondo County East), who previously raised the concern, said several Ugandans are held in different compounds operating as rebel camps in Myanmar, besides the two cited in the minister’s report.

“We still sustain that the number of Ugandans, from our counting is 450 and they are likely to be more,” Nkunyingi said.

AUDIO: Shadow Minister Muwada Nkunyingi

He added that there is need for immediate and remedial measures to rescue the stranded Ugandans.

“It is our humble proposal that this Parliament institutes an ad hoc committee to urgently address this matter. The matter at hand is urgent, these are Ugandans in the hands of rebels and we must address this immediate concern,” Nkunyingi said.

He also emphasised the need for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the country’s embassies abroad to give regular and timely travel advice to Ugandans.

The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, tasked the foreign affairs ministry to give an update on the bilateral meeting held with the foreign affairs minister of Myanmar.

“That was 16 January 2024 and it is nearly a month now. We are talking about people being held by rebels not on their own volition. What is the update?” he asked.

The minister’s statement also called for Parliamentary appropriation of funds to support consular protection of Ugandan citizens abroad, in the proposed 2024/2024 financial year budget.

“Evacuation of Ugandans either in Myanmar, Egypt, India and other locations will require funding. My ministry will engage the Prime Minister on how to find resources to execute these noble endeavours,” Mulimba said.