Uganda Hajj Bureau Explains Delays in Travel of Pilgrims

The Uganda Hajj Bureau has explained the unfortunate travel delays experienced by numerous Muslims who had planned to journey for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to the revered cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Reports emerged on Monday indicating that several pilgrims were unable to board their designated flights, causing panic and anxiety among them.

Zakalia Kyewalyanga, the Chairperson of the Uganda Hajj Bureau, confirmed that the travel plans of several individuals have been disrupted. He attributed these occurrences to technical issues with the visa portal system and delays in payment by certain travelers.

Speaking from Saudi Arabia, Kyewalyanga disclosed that while they were in the process of obtaining visas for numerous travelers, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s system in Saudi Arabia experienced downtime starting from Thursday.

He further explained that the system was restored on Saturday, and since then, they have been working diligently to register and acquire visas for numerous pilgrims, including those who were initially scheduled to travel in the first batch.

Unfortunately, not all of them were processed on time.   Additionally, Kyewalyanga acknowledged that some delays were caused by the pilgrims themselves and several Hajj agents in Uganda, who delayed payment of the required fares.

He clarified that some individuals made their payments at the last minute, while the money transfer system typically takes several days to process. Consequently, by Monday, the funds had not yet been reflected in the Ministry of Hajj’s accounts, resulting in the non-issuance of visas.

Mawanda Nkunyingi, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, raised significant attention to the issue, highlighting that out of the 250 individuals who were supposed to be on Uganda Airlines’ inaugural flight to Jeddah, more than 150 pilgrims had not been able to travel. However, at the time of reporting, independent confirmation of the exact number of affected pilgrims was unavailable.

Nkunyingi, who also serves as the Member of Parliament for Kyadondo East, urged the authorities to provide assistance to the affected travelers and explore alternative flight arrangements to enable them to fulfill their pilgrimage. In response to these concerns, Kyewalyanga advised the pilgrims to continue diligently following up on their travel documentation through their respective agents.

It is important to note that several agents are available to assist pilgrims in acquiring the required documentation for their pilgrimage to the holy cities. However, it is also crucial to acknowledge that over the years, challenges have arisen, and some individuals have encountered issues, including falling victim to unscrupulous agents engaging in fraudulent activities.

Ashiraf Zziwa, the spokesperson for the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), acknowledged the efforts being made to address these issues. Zziwa stated that UMSC is actively working towards establishing a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Hajj Affairs in Saudi Arabia, with the objective of streamlining the Hajj process, enhancing its efficiency, and effectively addressing the concerns raised by Ugandan pilgrims.

In 1972, one of the motivations behind Idi Amin’s decision to unite Muslims in Uganda under one umbrella was to streamline the organization and conduct of the Hajj pilgrimage within the country. Amin aimed to bring about a more centralized and efficient approach to managing the Hajj affairs of Ugandan Muslims. By consolidating the various Muslim groups under a single entity, it was intended to facilitate better coordination, organization, and representation of the Muslim community during the Hajj pilgrimage.

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