Why you must posses national ID

Friday May 3 2019


By Robert Atuhairwe

What is the problem of Uganda? Knowing the lethargic tendencies of some of our compatriots, is it a surprise that some of them have never acquired the national identity card?

I am a citizen who registered to acquire a national ID when the exercise was introduced by National Identification Registration Authority (Nira). I acquired my card at the issuance of the first batch in 2015.

Had I missed out on registering the first time, I would have used the next opportunity to do so due to the importance I attach to the document. I didn’t not have to be reminded over and over again. Mass identification programmes are the bedrock of national planning and individual participation.

Governments use information gleaned from mass citizenship profiling to plan and serve. For individuals, from confirmation of citizenship, access control, for use as a reference for acquisition of other documents (account opening, filing tax returns, use in judicial circles such as standing surety for suspects), use as a travel document and for use in the electoral process as a voter and contestant-a national ID is not a luxury-rather, it is a treasure.

Right now, a section of subscribers are being disconnected from telecom networks due to failure to regularise their numbers with the National Identification Numbers (NINs), which come with their IDs. They are now cut off from voice calls, messaging and mobile money transactions. They also have no access to social media.

While some Ugandans are dragging their feet, citizens in other countries have gone to the next level. In Kenya, for instance, people are registering for a personal number, Huduma Number, which is a little more advanced than ours.

It involves collecting biometric data after which the systems generates a unique number which will be the pass to access government services, including applying for a driving license, ID and birth certificate. With it, one does not have to carry several documents like the national I.D, driving permit and passport.

According to Kenya’s National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), the body in charge of the process, all personal information recorded in different databases is consolidated so as “to arrive at the ‘single source of truth’ regarding a Kenyan.”

In Uganda, there are many people who have not done even the basic thing of applying for their ndagamuntu (national Identity card). Why? Not having a national ID is like ceasing to exist. A person without an ID is not a “living being.” He or she cannot be accounted for, has no or limited access to places where services are offered, he or she cannot engage in any formal business, and so on. In short, they have cannot participation in things Ugandan.

Interestingly, such people badly want to see a difference in how things are done in the country. But how will they contribute towards bringing the change they wish to see? Lack of basic interest in one’s civic duties and personal responsibility for their own and others well-being relegates many people to misery and desperation. a situation in which they can be used and abused. The ID project is a vital document that empowers a citizen.

Robert Atuhairwe,