Why MPs should embrace e-passports

Monday December 10 2018

 

By David Serumaga

The Government of Uganda this week unveiled the new batch of East African electronic passports (e-Passport), replacing the ordinary ones. This e-passport came after an East African Community (EAC) directive by the heads of state. Government aims to implement this directive by introducing e-passport and the first batch was delivered on Monday 3, to the Minister of Internal Affairs.
These e-passports have chips that are easier to read by the micro-processor reader at border points. They also have safety measures like biometric data, which makes it hard to forge.

However, our legislators have come up to challenge this process on grounds that the protocol of changing it was not followed and Parliament was not consulted. Secondly, some think that it was unlawful to phase out the current passports yet a number of them are still valid beyond 2021. Lastly, their concern was on the increased fees used to acquire this new e-Passport.

Yes, our legislators have the mandate to approve such changes but I wonder why they come out at this moment yet the process started long time ago. I am very sure the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Affairs knew about this process.
When our MPs insisted on blocking the e-passport, I took time to read some of the information on the current passport. On the second last page, it notes:
“1. Uganda passports are issued by the competent authority in Uganda and by the Uganda Government’s Diplomatic and Consular Offices in foreign countries.

2. Passports are valid for 10 years and will not be extended beyond this period. The fee for the passports shall be determined by government. If at any time the passport contains no further space for visas, a new passport should be obtained
Caution; this property remains the property of Government of Uganda and may be withdrawn at anytime”
One should note that the passport remains “the property of Government of Uganda and may be withdrawn at anytime”. Therefore, if government finds it irrelevant to still use the old passports, new ones can be issued. Further, “the fee for the passports shall be determined by government.” Why should the MPs complain about the increment in the fee then?

A number of Ugandans have been victims, acquiring forged passports which affected their travels, businesses and landed them into trouble with the law. In order to curb this issue, Government has added value on our passport by digitalising it with safety measures that make it hard to forge. All those added values come with extra cost, meaning that the amount of issuing and acquiring the e-passport will not be the same like the current passports.

David Serumaga,
President, Buganda Youth Wing
[email protected]

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