How ready are we for the Registration of Persons Bill?
The government of Uganda recognized the need for an integrated system to identify citizens for national planning, national security, democratization, revenue collection, and service delivery and immigration control among other purposes. With this system in place, it would offer government a valuable mechanism for addressing its challenges in planning, security, and more efficient provision of social services.
All the above are fundamental reasons needed for Uganda’s registration for its citizens, however, how applicable is the beautifully crafted law?
There are some controversial clauses for example Clause 39) “Change of sex of a child”, saw many members of Parliament fold their sleeves, ready to rebuke anyone or anything that suggested change of sex, as homophobia kicked in. Many MPs rebuked the west for this influence.
Given that the MPs have rather radical views on homosexuality, the old clause “change of sex”, was amended to read “Registration of Children born intersex”. It provided that a medical doctor verifies these children as intersex at birth.
One would perfectly understand MPs fear of the clause providing for change of sex given their “moral beliefs” but one has to put in mind that there could be some Ugandans that leave the country and change their sex from female to male or vice versa. One wonders if such will not be registered as citizens.
“We Parliament need to pass laws while considering reality, the fact that people change their sex” said Minister for Justice and constitutional Affairs Kahinda Otafiire. The response to the minister’s advice can only be compared to noise from the marketplace as the many conservative MPs lashed out at him and his views on homosexuality.
Speaker Kadaga asked MPs to legislate carefully, for some children are born hermaphrodites, they have both male and female organs and they would need to be registered under the new bill.
But even with this change in the clause, question remains on how many women in Uganda have no access to medical care when it comes to childbirth, some of them may not have access to a genetics doctor to verify the sex of a child.
In my opinion, the law is packed with unrealistic requirements; Clause 40 Sub clause 2) requires a Ugandan to have a national identification before receiving any services from of government or any other institution providing, these services for example: one seeking employment; identification of voters; application for, and issuance of a passport; opening of bank accounts; purchase of insurance policies; the purchase, transfer and registration of land by any individual or any transaction connected with the purchase, transfer and registration of land; pension and social security transactions etc
Key question is how many Ugandans did register for a national ID? With all the shortfalls in the registration system it is evident that not so many. There have been media reports that in some places, there were no computers, personnel, or proper equipment for the exercise to take place.
This looks hypocritical. That a government that failed to provide this service to some of its citizens, wants all citizens to then use the ID to access all these services. This means all youth, need to make sure that they registered for national IDs before they start to look for employment. I am yet to hear though of organizations asking for the IDs before they offer services.
The law also prescribes that the use of the data collected from the national ID registration process, may also be used by the electoral commission to update, maintain the voter’s register.
The opposition tried their best to fight this clause in parliament by questioning how genuine the data collected was for the electoral commission to pick and use the data.
“The entire registration process was handled by the military, how are we sure that they did not register ghosts given the upcoming 2016 elections?” asked MP Mwanga Kivumbi
With Uganda’s ghost history, in the different sectors from ghost teachers to ghost hotels, the opposition is worried that come 2016 elections, there will be legally recognized ghosts who have a citizenship identity card. There are so many clauses that have caused uproar in society and parliament about this law.
As Mp Ssegona said: “Giving unguided power and discretion to a person to restrict a service is simply unfair to Ugandans given that it is the role of any Government to provide these core services to its citizens”
The objective of the law is to harmonize and consolidate the law on registration of persons; to provide for registration of individuals; to establish a national identification register; to establish a national registration and identification authority; to provide for the issue of national identification cards and aliens identification cards.
Uganda needs this law. However, the country is not in such a good shape to welcome the law. There are so many things that need to be put into place before the bill can be passed into law and it begins to work efficiently.