Press Release: Unwanted Witness Calls for Reform to Champion an Inclusive, Trustworthy, and Accountable National ID System in Uganda

Kampala, Uganda – June 10, 2024 – Unwanted Witness has released a comprehensive position paper titled “Championing an Inclusive, Trustworthy, and Accountable Approach to Uganda’s ID Infrastructure and the Transition to a New Generation ID,” coinciding with Uganda’s mass registration campaign for the renewal of national IDs this July. This critical document provides an in-depth analysis of Uganda’s National ID System, focusing on the National Security Identification System (NSIS) and the emerging New Generation National ID Project (Ndaga Muntu).

The position paper scrutinizes the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), highlighting significant shortcomings of the NSIS and advocating for a more transparent, inclusive, and accountable identification framework. It raises substantial human rights concerns related to Uganda’s ID infrastructure, particularly regarding privacy, financial strain, and the exclusion of marginalized populations.

“Many Ugandans face significant barriers in accessing essential services due to the current National ID system,” said Freda Nalumansi-Mugambe, Research and Advocacy Lead at Unwanted Witness. “Our analysis shows that the mandatory nature of these IDs, without viable alternatives, leads to the exclusion of many from critical activities such as healthcare, employment, and financial transactions.”

Tracing the developmental trajectory of NSIS, the paper outlines its obstacles and progress. It critically evaluates NIRA’s effectiveness in citizen registration and data consolidation, expressing concerns over financial burdens and potential exclusion of vulnerable groups.

“Privacy concerns are at the forefront of our findings,” emphasized Anthony Odur, one of the main researchers. “NIRA’s failure to comply with Uganda’s Data Protection Laws, such as conducting a Data Protection Impact Assessment or having a privacy policy, poses significant risks to the privacy rights of citizens.”

As one of the world’s poorest nations, Uganda has a significant portion of its population living below the poverty line. The steep fixed fee of UGX 50,000/- ($13.78 USD) for ID replacement imposes a heavy financial burden, especially compared to neighboring countries with lower fees. The recent announcement waiving ID renewal fees is a positive step, yet the high costs for replacement and error correction remain a challenge for the average Ugandan.

The paper presents a comparative analysis of ID replacement fees in neighboring countries, highlighting the disproportionate financial burden on Ugandans. It recommends urgent reforms to enhance the inclusivity and affordability of the National ID system, emphasizing the need for a more equitable and human rights-respecting approach.

Unwanted Witness calls on stakeholders, policymakers, and the Ugandan government to prioritize reforms ensuring the National ID system is inclusive, trustworthy, and accountable. This involves addressing privacy concerns, reducing financial burdens, and ensuring no Ugandan is excluded from essential services due to lack of an ID.

About Unwanted Witness

Unwanted Witness is committed to amplifying the voices of the vulnerable, raising awareness, and driving meaningful conversations around human rights and inclusivity in Uganda. Through advocacy and engagement, Unwanted Witness seeks to influence positive change and reform in Uganda’s National ID system.

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