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ID project: slow start, late rush

By Flavia Nassaka

14.9 million Ugandans registered of the targeted 18 million

Though Members of Parliament pushed for the extension of the deadline for the National Identification Mass Registration exercise at parish level, this has not been successful as Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Minister for Internal Affairs, officially closed the exercise on Aug.9.

The exercise meant to capture biometric data for all Ugandans aged 16 years and above started on April 14 and was ended on Aug. 11 having registered 14.9m Ugandans of the targeted 18 million.

Apart from the cults in areas of Ibanda that discouraged people from registering, Aronda applauded Ugandans for accepting the project with much enthusiasm.

The project overcame initial hiccups including late arrival of equipment and frustration over endless questions and demands for documents at the registration centres. Emotions sometimes ran high as the verification officers demanded baptism cards and marriage certificates. As a result, over 70% registered in the last two months.

Anthony Okwore, an ID enrollment officer at Kololo Parish in Nakawa division says he was overwhelmed by the numbers of people who turned up for registration in the last days of the exercise.

He said he wished they could have registered more than the maximum 80 people they managed per a day with the two kits available at their parish. He said people making errors that required repeating the whole process and the registration cameras and laptops that needed to be charged frequently caused most delays.

The minister explained that they could not extend the deadline because they operated under pressure from other East African Community (EAC) countries requiring Ugandans to have a machine readable document for security purposes.

He said the project started with 4000 kits or only 20% of what was needed. This improved to 44% until they secured 100% within the last two months. A kit compromised of a computer, camera, scanner, and signature and thumb reader machines.

As a result of those challenges, some commentators say the deadline should have been extended.

James Mwirima, the National Coordinator Citizens Watch-IT (CEW-IT); a consortium of CSOs that monitor government programs, the project implementer- the National Security Information System (NSIS) was not prepared enough to handle a project of this magnitude in spite of plans starting way back in 2009.

Mwirima cites rigidities especially in the first and second month of registration where registration was limited to the place of birth or residence not giving people options of registering at places they can easily access for instance at places of work or considering on-line registration other than giving people forms to take home and return to the centers.

Some of the implementers did not look competent to use the technologies. This was attributed to academic competence not being part of the recruitment requirement. Many were randomly picked from the community.

As the project enters a second phase, many hope that implementation will be better.

The next phase

Having concluded the first phase, Phase (ii) dubbed continuous registration at sub-county level kicked off on August 12 and is slated to end on February 27, 2015.

Betty Najenga, the Deputy Project Manager, NSIS anticipates that work at the sub-county will be much easier since they project to capture data of only about  three million people since over 14.9 million have already registered at parish level.

Mwirima however warns that the second phase might be easier for masqueraders to register because, unlike the parish level where people could easily identify each other, sub counties are bigger.

He also cites the problem of human resource which has led to failure of such projects in the past. He mentioned the registering of births and deaths that has not succeeded because of lack of full time staff to register.

He said though MPs were mooting for the extension of the exercise, it’s not necessary because the biggest number has registered although he said the true figure could only be established after tabulation.

As of 9th august, 36 districts had registered over 80% of the people, 35 had registered 70-79%, 30 had registered 50-69% whereas 11 districts had registered below 50%.

By June 2015, Ugandans above 16 will be issued an ID with a unique national identification number to be used as the primary and only source of credible information about a Ugandan.

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