Jumping through half a million hoops to get a national ID
What you need to know:
- From the experiences shared with colleagues, I shudder to think what the process is like now. My passport expired three years ahead of what it promised and now I am staring at the prospect of going through the same hustles when the national ID expires in 2024. The proposed rate for renewing a national ID is half a million shillings.
The more fancy offices we build, the more divisions we create, the more machines we buy, it seems the more backward our systems and processes become. I remember how easy and inexpensive it was to process a birth certificate through Kampala City Council. From the experiences shared with colleagues, I shudder to think what the process is like now. My passport expired three years ahead of what it promised and now I am staring at the prospect of going through the same hustles when the national ID expires in 2024. The proposed rate for renewing a national ID is half a million shillings.
In 2020, at least 2.4 million Ugandans did not have national IDs. At the time of writing, the National Identification and Registration Authority was advertising 2.6 million national IDs ready for pickup. Coincidentally, the passport office was also saying it was stranded with 10,000 uncollected passports, quite ironic given the long queues, sweat, blood and tears that Ugandans have invested in trying to get these documents. Why would they not show up when the paperwork is ready? I would like to believe that not all the owners of the documents are deceased or otherwise unavailable. How do I know this? I know because the last time I went through the process of renewing a passport, it took me four months after it was ready to actually get it, and not for lack of trying.
The routine went something like this: Wake up early, arrive at passport office and line up. Go through the queue, officer scans list of finished passports and says, “Come back Wednesday.” On Wednesday, the next one would say, “Come back Monday.” Since I was not flying anywhere in a hurry, I decided the passport office could keep the documents a bit longer and hand them over when they were good and ready. If I called for submissions of stories and experiences, I am sure I could write a book, just from our attempts to get travel documents.
Before the dust has settled on the e-passports, enter the price hike on the national ID, which would be twice the cost of getting an ordinary passport (middleman fees, and miscellaneous express fees excluded). Someone quipped on Twitter that it is getting more expensive to stay in the country, forget about leaving it.
The other tragedy is that some Ugandans really believe there is a justification for all the hiccups, the bureaucracy, the system breakdowns and mess-ups. More of us are now born in hospitals and every child born is registered somewhere, even if it is in an exercise book. Even where one is not born in a hospital, perhaps they can be recorded with the area LC I. Why can’t we collect this information and use it to ensure our children have birth certificates, instead of waiting to accost and extort parents when an urgent need arises to process a birth certificate and they have to go knocking at the doors of these government departments with fancy names.
There is no need to create a crisis in the name of registering Ugandans for whatever reason. Much of the record keeping should be done as a matter of fact in the normal course of duty of the multiple agencies whose salaries these overburdened Ugandan taxpayers are footing. Again, some unfortunate Ugandans are about to be ripped off by Shs500,000 for a task that should simply involve retrieving an individual’s already stored data to renew a national ID which is expiring in 2024 anyway. On behalf of all fellow sufferers, see you in the next queue and carry unlimited sums of money because who knows what those documents will cost then?
Ms Nampewo is a writer, editor and communications consultant