Digital identification systems raise important human rights and broader legal considerations with respect to the way information and actions are linked to persons, authenticity is proven, and individual rights and responsibility is determined in systems. Once deployed, digital identification systems can be powerful tools used for techno-social engineering, censorship, exclusion, discrimination, persecution, targeted deployment of social credit systems, torture, and surveillance – all intended to achieve and/or enhance obedience to authority structures.

Unwanted Witness, therefore, is at the forefront of advocating for assessing the human rights implications of the growing corporate and governmental surveillance of the lives of ordinary people. The focus has been majorly been put on the risks posed by digital identification systems to individual privacy, access to private and public services, rights to expression, and freedom of conscience.

Why Litigation over other Advocacy Forms?

We opted for litigation instead of alternative advocacy methods in this particular case due to several factors that we believed would significantly contribute to achieving our desired impact. These factors encompassed the following:

Legal Precedent
We hold the belief that litigation is instrumental in establishing legal precedents that have far-reaching implications beyond the specific case at hand. In this particular instance, we embarked on litigation with the aim of challenging, among other things, section 66 of the Registration of Persons Act. Our intention is to secure favourable judgments that will not only shape future policies but also provide essential protection for individuals' rights.
Public Awareness and Advocacy
Through our decision to initiate legal proceedings against NIIRA and other relevant parties, our primary objective was to strategically garner public attention and elevate awareness regarding the matter at stake. As a result of this litigation, extensive media coverage has been attracted, effectively shedding light on the numerous challenges linked to Uganda's digital ID systems and stimulating crucial public discourse. Consequently, this heightened scrutiny has exerted considerable pressure on the government, and soon or later, we believe Government will be compelled to address the concerns we have diligently raised.
Accountability and Transparency
We hold the conviction that resorting to legal proceedings is one of the effective mechanisms at our disposal to enforce accountability upon the government of Uganda and NIIRA. By pursuing this course of action, our aim is to foster transparency in the decision-making processes, thereby ensuring that the actions and policies of these entities are held to scrutiny.


The pursuit of advocacy in this context has encountered numerous barriers and challenges. Among these obstacles are:

Financial Constraints
Litigation can be expensive, requiring funds for legal representation, court fees, research, and evidence gathering. Limited financial resources can impede the ability of CSOs to effectively pursue the case and sustain their advocacy efforts.
Lack of Public Awareness
Limited public understanding and awareness of the issues surrounding digital ID systems has been a challenge. Generating public support and mobilizing public opinion may require extensive awareness campaigns and education initiatives.
Delayed Legal Processes
Legal proceedings have some how been protracted, leading to delays in achieving desired outcomes. This can test the patience and resources of the CSOs involved, potentially affecting their ability to sustain momentum and advocacy efforts.
Limited Media Coverage
Gaining consistent media coverage and ensuring sustained public attention on the case has been challenging.

Advocacy Tools

Prior to the decision to litigate, Unwanted Witness, in collaboration with the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and the Health Equity and Policy Initiative (HEAPI), utilized diverse advocacy tools. These tools encompassed:

1Research and Documentation
Through an extensive research initiative, we diligently collected evidence and pertinent information concerning the detrimental impact of the national ID system, which has resulted in the exclusion of numerous citizens from enjoying their fundamental social and economic rights. As a culmination of our research findings, we subsequently released a comprehensive report titled "Chased Away and Left To Die." This impactful report served as a cornerstone for our advocacy endeavors, laying a solid foundation and significantly bolstering the credibility of our case during the court proceedings.
2Strategic Engagement
Despite our extensive engagements in advocacy meetings, consultations, and dialogues with NIIRA officials, policymakers, the world bank team funding Uganda’s Social protection grant for older persons in Uganda (SAGE), and the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development implementing team, our concerted efforts to raise awareness, share concerns, and advocate for changes in digital ID policies and practices ultimately yielded disappointing results.
3Coalition Building
We have actively pursued the formation of alliances and partnerships with various organizations, both at local and international levels, as part of our ongoing efforts to amplify our advocacy endeavors. By forging these alliances, we aspire to strengthen the collective voice, enhance available resources, and foster broader support for our cause. These collaborative initiatives remain in progress, as we continue to work towards our shared objectives.

Valuable Insights and Lessons

a). Understanding the legal and policy landscape
The research we undertook yielded a thorough comprehension of the prevailing legal and policy frameworks governing digital ID systems in Uganda. This profound understanding played a crucial role in the development of effective advocacy strategies, enabling us to navigate the intricacies of the landscape and effectively advocate for our objectives.
b). Stakeholder engagement:
Active engagement with NIIRA, policymakers, and various stakeholders played a pivotal role in heightening awareness and fostering relationships that have the potential to facilitate policy changes.
c). Collaboration and coalition building:
c.The formation of alliances and partnerships with organizations that share our goals has significantly bolstered and continues to enhance our advocacy strengths. This collaborative approach has facilitated the sharing of knowledge and expertise, ultimately broadening the overall impact of our advocacy initiative.
d). Evidence-based advocacy:
The research, documentation, and data analysis undertaken served as a robust foundation for our advocacy efforts, bolstering our credibility and enhancing the persuasiveness of our case. These rigorous methods provided a strong evidentiary base, reinforcing the validity and impact of our advocacy initiatives.


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