The opposition is unsettled over Government’s plan to install digital tracking devices on private vehicles to help fight rampant crime, saying that the technology might instead be abused to persecute political dissents and critics.
In a statement to Parliament, the Shadow Minister for Internal Affairs Abdallah Kiwanuka (Mukono North MP-NUP) said that besides the fear of how such an initiative can be misused by the Government to monitor and clamp its opponents, it is also illegal.
According to Kiwanuka, compulsory installation of digital tracking devices on all motor vehicles is not provided for in the Traffic and Rood Safety (Vehicle Registration, Licensing and Third Party insurance) regulations.
“The Law provides for colour, characters, shape, material and placement of plates. Hence there are no enabling legal provisions for installation of tracking devices on transportation equipment,” said Kiwanuka.
Kiwanuka said that the project is likely to diminish the privacy of users of vehicles, and motorcycles adorned with electronic plates in disguise of national security.
He added that the move would further violate Article 27 of the Constitution which guarantees the right of privacy.
“The electronic plate project not only infringes location privacy but also life profiles of people. For instance, visits to a hospital will reveal that you are ill or have a patient; visits to offices of political organizations may reveal your political affiliations,” he added.
The member was also concerned about the storage and access of data. He pointed out that in the recent past; there have been reports that the Police have mysteriously lost CCTV footage.
“This is an indication that there are gaps in the security of data for it can end up in hands of third parties. Wrong elements in the security circles may use their privileges to illegally retrieve data with the intention of undertaking harmful tasks or horrendous acts,” said Kiwanuka.
President Museveni first proposed the idea of installing tracking devices on vehicles and bikes during his June 2018 address to Parliament on the back of a string of assassinations of prominent politicians, Muslim clerics, and security officials.
The proposed installation of digital tracking devices is meant to add to the installation of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras and recruitment/deployment of Local Defence Unit personnel.
On July 23, 2021, the Minister of Security Maj. Gen Jim Muhwezi Katugugu signed an agreement on behalf of the Government with the M/S Joint-stock global systems company on the intelligent transporting monitoring systems.
Michael Kamugisha (Kajara County MP-NRM) asked the Government to conduct deeper research into the idea and argued against placing the burden of the cost on the taxpayer.
The Kilak South MP- FDC, Gilbert Olanya asked the Government to abandon the idea of installing electronic devices in vehicles because it is a danger to people’s privacy which is enshrined under the constitution.
On his part, the Leader of the Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga sought to move a motion without notice under the Rules of Procedure to require the Minister for Security, to appear before Parliament and report on the extent to which the project has been implemented so far.
The Government Chief Whip, Thomas Tayebwa defended the proposal, saying only criminally minded individuals have a reason to be scared but added that Muhwezi will present a statement on the matter.
In his ruling, Speaker Jacob Oulanyah guided that the Minister of Internal Affairs presents to Parliament a comprehensive statement on the matter to guide debate.