On another attempt, citizen registration for National Identity Cards is imminent in Uganda. National IDs are very important in any country, Kenya already implemented this, Rwanda as well as farther neighbors like Ethiopia all issue national IDs to their citizens. Having been suspended twice in Uganda due to an array reasons, the practice this time looks on course to commence. In 2011, anti-corruption court halted the process due to flaws in procurement. In 2013, the same process was halted again reportedly due to inter-agency fights over the project.
A national identity card is a portable document, archetypally a plasticized card with digitally-embedded information, that someone is required or encouraged to carry as a means of confirming their identity. It can also a basis for determining who enjoys what rights in a given country, including access to services, other documents like a passport and possibly enrolment to jobs. In Uganda, stakeholders in this project include NITA-U, Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Internal Affairs, URSB, UBOS and the Citizens among others.
One of the few Ugandan citizens with a national ID; Adopted from Red Pepper
The challenge in Uganda is determining who rightfully deserves a national identity card and what procedures shall be taken to determine who gets an ID. I choose to discuss these questions that Ugandans should be asking, drawing a few experiences from Kenya.
In Kenya, a vetting process was undertaken to determine who to issue a card, also lineage is followed and some considerations such land ownership deeds, follow-up with local authorities as well as ethnicity. This however raised questions when it came to issuing cards to groups that have been in Kenya for over 100 years but are not considered bona facie Kenyans such as the Nubians, Kenyan Arabs, Asians and Caucasians. In Uganda, how shall this be handled? Not that there are no contestable groups in the country.
On noble grounds, it is well-intentioned pointing out that there are very many Congolese, Rwandese and even Kenyans who have lived in Uganda for over 7-10+ years. They have bought land, built houses and live harmoniously with people in their communities but does this make them Ugandans? I don’t think so. By the fact that Kenyan officials find it hard issuing IDs to Somalis who have been in the country for over 20 years, what justifies Uganda to do so.
Essentially, the proof of citizenship and age were the most important documents in Kenya. A registration officer would ask for a birth certificate. On some occasions, a medical officer would be required to carry out an age assessment process and issue a certificate. In Uganda, the same can work, enrolment officers (as shall be called) will ask for this, but how accurate are our birth certificates when it is on record that only 4% of Ugandans have genuine birth certificates.
In Kenya, the process is handled by National Registration Bureau (NRB) in conjunction with Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), thus raising question of duplication of roles between ECK which registers voters who have attained the age of 18, as well NRB registering citizens for IDs, this process was viewed as a double burden on tax payer’s money. Therefore, Ugandans should be asking whether they shall have to register again to be able to vote in 2016 or the records shall be shared.
In Kenya, some registration centers did not even have the basics. In the districts of Turkana, Teso, Wajir, Mandera and Kajiado, Amukura division the office facilities were in a deplorable state. Yet to register a citizen, a photo may be captured; thump print or toe print may be captured, details including name, age, parental lineage among others. This therefore means a center needs paper, computers, cameras, biometric scanners among others. Some centers did not have these, assuming the process was well planned with knowledge of an estimate number of citizens to be registered. In Uganda however, census have not been conducted thus knowing the number of citizens is a challenge but the stake holders were able to come up with an estimated amount of money needed to roll out the project for all the citizens. This calls for questions from Ugandans.
In Kenya, IDs are produced through a process chain, registration was/ is done from all parts of the country and cards are printed from Nairobi before sending them back to points of registration. Turukana is the largest district in Kenya but has very few divisional offices, Tana River district over 300 kms wide deserved to have its own ID printing center. Experience has shown that regionalized ID printing is much more successful. Through regionalization of printing centers, there is a reduction in both acknowledged and unacknowledged delays that come during the processing, producing and dissemination of IDs. For instance in Ethiopia, all states manage their records and print their own national IDs, this has made the process faster and better understood by citizens. This explains why in Kenya, several times staff members of NRB complained of the system being centralized and concentrated in Nairobi.
The question of who incurs the cost of processing the ID. Just like simcard registration, at some service centers, clients had to take their own photos, it will not be strange to see some citizens in some parts of Uganda being asked to carry passport size photos and yet having a camera at the registration center would allow for homogeneity of records. While Kenyans in the diaspora pay to be issued an ID, those in the country do not pay, this is understandable. However, some groups of people were being made to pay to be able to get registered, this was very fraudulent. Something we cannot rule out in Uganda, citizens of Uganda need to informed on who meets the cost of the service so that Ugandans in far to reach areas are not duped.
In homogeneity of documents required. Some parts of Kenya like in Nakuru, registration officers asked for copies of parent’s ID, proof of age and Letter from an area chief. This highly contrasted with what was being asked from citizens in Northern Frontier District (NFD), the Nubian communities in Nairobi among others who were being asked to produce as many as Birth certificate, Baptismal certificate, school leaving certificate, age assessment certificate from a medical officer, child health card, notification of birth, letter from the Provincial Administration Chief, sworn affidavits (for late registration) among others. What harmonized process does Uganda have for registration? Even earlier projects like sim card registration, in some places, subscribers were asked to present photos while others had their photos taken at other registration points.
Some IDs used by Ugandans to identify themselves, photo by Abubaker Lubowa
A fact worth rethinking is that, often than not, registration of persons is seamlessly linked with elections thus wholly or partially watering down the value of ID cards, since a Voter’s card would serve the same purpose without having to issue another document.
Ignorance of the citizenry, public ignorance on procedures of application and entitlements contributes greatly to exploitation by officers in the field and or failure by citizens to meet the requirements. In Kenya, elderly citizens in Garsen were asked to pay the registration officer before receiving their identity cards once the cards had arrived from Nairobi. The elders accused the respective registrar of having his drawer full of ready IDs but would only hand them over for “something small”, locally known as “kitu kidogo“. Such a situation can occur in some parts of Uganda.
The question of Ugandans living in diaspora; Kenya through some of its missions, issues IDs to its citizens living in those respective countries, this is however done at a cost determined by other the mission or the NRB. Uganda can probably handle is with time but needs to be in plan.
Sample of a Kenyan ID issued from their mission in London; adopted from Misterseed
Does a national ID need to have an expiry date? I do not think so, probably a renewal date. An expiry on a document that determines your citizenship means your citizenship has expired. This is not practical. The Kenyan IDs do not have expiry dates, a leaf Uganda ought to borrow.
Excerpts from KNCHR report ” An Identity Crisis? A Study on the Issuance of National Identity Cards In Kenya” 2007