Three haircuts and different colour tints, binge eating, terrible mood swings and interrupted work schedules later, I still don’t have a passport, and I will not get it.

 It is a no deal, the passport officer put his foot down; no Ugandan passports shall be issued to my kind- don’t ask me what kind that is.

Even after that recommendation letter from my place of work, and another from the Prime Minister, and a meeting with the Minister of State for Internal Affairs, he (the passport officer) wasn’t going to be swayed.

He said to me that he could give me the passport, but then he would have to give up his job since he was sure they would fire him any way. Must be tough, his job.  Maybe I should have known earlier on that meeting with him, and or his people, every once a week for the last three months with a different and “more Ugandan Girl look” wouldn’t help any.  Now that I think about it, I could have instead invented a new name, as one of his people had hinted, and denounced my dead mother, since as it is, she is the major reason –bless her- why I couldn’t get the to-die-for passport.

And what is this big sin she committed, which now, more than 20 years later I discover that I have inherited? She was Ugandan of Rwandan origin; her great grand parents were Rwandan- that is the major ‘stain’.

See, she could have had me with a Munyakole, Muganda or an Acholi man, but that is not important now because she chose to name me-, names that are, according to everyone at Internal Affairs office, a label of my Rwandaness. It doesn’t even help matters that she decided to have just her side of the family- who are in every way citizens of this country- raise me.  I have, until recently (now am confused), lived, loved and generally carried on as a Ugandan. Because that is who I am, right?   No one at the immigration office cares that I hold a voters card and have been voting since I turned 18.

Maybe one doesn’t really have to be Ugandan to vote in this country after all considering that one of the staff members informed me that any one can get a voter’s card, and just about any one can forge a birth certificate and basically any one can lie about being Ugandan and  with legal backing.

 And that they, because they are the professionals, know how to tell a non-Ugandan a part from a Ugandan, (little miracles!) and no, according to them, I am definitely not Ugandan, because look at my surname! Did some one mention that this country is devoid of geniuses?!

I have tried to adopt a sense of humor about this whole circus that not getting a Ugandan passport really was. Because, lets face it, you do not have both the passport officer- he seems like a good man by the way- and the immigration office lawyer- who always came off as absolutely uninterested in my case- ask you to apply for Ugandan citizenship then turn around (literally), and in the same breath, assure you that it would still not be easy for this citizenship to be granted, because, hmm, you don’t exactly have any grounds on which to apply for it. You are, in other words, not exactly a non-citizen .

And it is at this point that the lawyer, almost serious for once, advises me to get myself a Ugandan man, trick him into marrying me and then make sure that we are a happily married couple for the next seven years. And then, only then, shall I qualify as a Ugandan.

Who knew that I- with all my independent woman rhetoric- would one day need to be defined by a man who, poor soul will actually be doing it involuntarily?!So I have had to not take this learned person’s advice, after all, seven years of marital bliss is a lot like those fairy tale stories from which I stay very far. 


8 Comments Add yours

  1. NO!!!! NO!!!! I’m sitting here with my friend, telling your story, and he cites the UN Convention on Something Something, that guarantees you citizenship!!!!

    Does this mean you don’t get to go to Italy???

    Is there anything I can do? I have a friend who works at the US Embassy, and though it sounds like your case is beyond help, let me know if you’d like me to call her.

  2. tumwijuke says:

    You still haven’t got the passport? Oh my. There is a tribunal in the Immigration Directorate to which you can appeal. It sorted out a friend’s work permit stuff. Perhaps you can give it a try.

    Or perhaps not.

    My country brings me to tears. All. The. Time.

  3. antipop says:

    i was goin to say i know a friend who knows a friend who has a sister who makes coffee in the passport office… but hell! how can i beat scarlett lion and tumwi above? wish you all the best tho.

  4. Phoebe says:

    @SL$Tumwi, the Hon. Minister asked me to go see him. He was a guest at the KFM hot seat show, and the hosts brought up my case. he mentioned that he wanted to c me. didnt think he was serious. Now he’s people just called and i will go c him tomorrow at 10am. wil let u know what comes out of that.

    @Antipop, I really could use a cup of coffee- ‘will need to accidently spil it on someone – so pliz send me contact of this friend of your friend’s friend.

  5. phoenix says:

    I have a couple of friends in case that’s your last option but seriously this country is sickening to say the least

  6. tumwijuke says:

    So … what’s the latest?

  7. mphoebe says:

    I could have just posted this in the main section..

    Hey, thank you all for the support and the ‘i will pray for you’
    sentiments and for telling my story to those i couldnt reach.

    I have gone through so many emotions in the process of ‘defining’ who
    i am. I have reached at the very bottom of the deep pit and i
    definately know now what it means to hit rock bottom. I know that the worst that
    can happen to me is not death, but being told that i am not who i know
    and say i am.

    I have stopped looking at my country in colour, with the beauty queen’s
    glass eyes and this little girl naivity, but in the black and white
    shades that it actually is. black and white together; half truth, half
    fiction fused as one. a smile in the midst of a crying out loud.

    We should know why it is in Uganda that tragedy is greated with humour;
    the death of Mayombo had everyone saying Mayombo’d. things like
    Kandahar, suicide mbombing, Kisangani, the dead bodies in the Kagera et al,
    Ugandans have gone and made fun of it, and while its happening.

    it’s not that Ugandans are insensitive. no. it is that we have seen
    the worst. Behind closed doors, a little girl is brutally raped (i refuse
    to call it defilement or molestation). And even when this case is reported
    nothing is done about it. Medical help or therepy is offered. No its not just
    the bruises, because its not just ‘sex without consent.
    A ‘man of God’ openly courts
    the devil, rich people steal from the sick, people who are meant to look
    out for us and protect us are bickering and killing one another over ‘u
    slept with my concumbine’ kinda issues.

    I meet the minister of internal affairs and he tells me, three times ”
    i want you to get the communication clear, you werent refused a
    passport because you were Rwandan, -(But yes sir that’s excatly why. They
    spelt it out for me YOU ARE RWANDAN-, you were refused a passport because
    you, i think, failed to prove that you are not a Rwandan from Rwanda,
    that you are a rwandan from uganda”.

    For those of you who dont know the difference, a rwandan from Rwandan
    was there before the war and still is. He/she is Franco-phone and even
    if she spoke english it would be with a heavy accent. This person is
    only fluent in kinyarwanda and french and would in no way, know ugandan
    local langauges as well as. it’s just like me going to rwanda and
    presenting my self as A rwandan from rwanda.

    And hey, why would such person be struggling to get a ugandan passport
    and maybe not american or some such countries. It just doesnt make

    I gues i have gained a lot more than i have lost in this whole saga. I
    just pray for the ugandan-rwandans who probably arent as lucky i have
    been. ( yes i got it. ). I pray for all those who have to change their
    names, their history, just so they fit in where they already fit.

    And i also pray for a time when this country – my home and my country-
    learns to have some sort of system. a proper system. that day should
    come soon.

    Ps: two students in Butare University (rwanda) were arrested for trying
    to bribe a lecturer to get her to give them a ‘change of course’. and
    because all bribery (corruption) is bribery, a crime which merits the
    offender 25 years in prison, these kids are going to be behind bars
    unless they appeal or something, for 25 years. (a friend here for the
    Easter weekend told me this, he knows the kids. about 19 years old).

    Yes, that kind of system

  8. mphoebe says:

    (No Medical help or therapy is offered)

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