How ready are we for the Reg­is­tra­tion of Per­sons Bill?

By: Jacky Kemigisa

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.