The Sunday Monitor editorial of May 6 titled ‘Probe national ID register’ is quite intriguing and raises a number of pertinent issues that need answers from the relevant authorities.
For the purpose of this letter, I refer to the second last sentence of the editorial where the paper sounds a useful caution that ‘We should also have a plan for renewing identification when the current documents expire in 2024.
First of all. why did the Ugandan authorities find it necessary to put an expiry date on national ID for its citizenry yet citizenship once acquired and/or proved is a lifetime right that can only be taken away by the State on specified grounds?
According to international best practice, national IDs are issued for life. They do not expire. Our neighbours Rwanda and Kenya follow this practice. In Botswana in southern Africa, a national ID is also issued for a lifetime. Every now and then, we hear that Ugandan public officials have gone abroad for what they call benchmarking. So how come they have failed to benchmark on this very important issue?
There are many common sense reasons why the open-ended ID is preferable to the expiry date type. The cost implications of re-registration might be staggering and unaffordable for the country. There is also the convenience or inconvenience of those to be registered.
If the exercise was that chaotic when the population was still 35 million people, what about in 2024 when the population is estimated to be 50 million people? What about if by then we are told there is no money for renewal of IDs as happened with LCI elections? Will this not be an excuse for banks to block customer accounts, cellular networks switch off Sim cards and worse, be denied the right to vote?
As rightly pointed out in the editorial, all other forms of identification, including the passport, have been rendered useless in most official transactions. There is also the issue of regional integration.
How will the rest of East Africa integrate with a people who are essentially temporary citizens of a territory they call home? How will Kenya and Rwanda allow free movement of Ugandans into their territories well knowing that Ugandans’ citizenship is limited and they could potentially become stateless.
There seems to be more than meets the eye in this whole Nira saga. So until we get clarification on issues raised by the editorial as well as this letter, the question regarding Uganda’s national ID will remain a puzzle.