‘Having a National Identity Card gives pride and is a claim to Citizenship’

writes Gen Aronda

After years of planning, Government of Uganda is now successfully implementing the National Identity Card Project. As we embark on the road ahead, we will remind ourselves time and again the importance of having a national Identity Card.
a. NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: This National Card will facilitate the delivery of National Development and planning, provide easy and access to social facilities and services based on reliable and verifiable data as well as facilitating more transparent and trustworthy business transactions between individuals and Institutions. It also guarantees confidence in accessing citizenry benefits as well as the unique association of “one-document/ one-identity” in the delivery of services, e.g. drivers licensing

b. ECONOMY AND FINANCE: In the past when the country was torn apart by perpetual insecurity and extra judicial killings, it took collective efforts to redeem and liberate the population and the economy from negative growth which was declining to -44% in 1985/6 to growing to over 6.2 % with an even bigger projection today. This in itself is economic liberation that can continuously be enhanced by ease of citizenry Identification. Our people engage in different economic activities through individual quick and daily registration, participation and organization of both small and big Microfinance and SACCOs that have become a huge source of economical activity for credit financing and borrowing, hence the need for the Identity Card.

c. The card will provide Financial Institutions with secure and undoubt-able verification system where the wanainchi can easily access financial services. Use of the card in financial Institutions will address the challenge of money laundering, and help effectively deal with increased financial indiscipline of multiple loans dealers and defaulters. With ease of identification, this card will also guarantee security financing in the banking system.
d. With revenue generation and management, use of biometric cards will greatly assist Uganda Revenue Authority in effective taxation targets and management by reducing on tax fraud. In the long run, we are able to help the authority increase tax revenue to complete the cycle of infrastructure investment and development. URA will be a key recipient of the data for their own use in improving driver & Vehicle Licensing and validation exercise.
e. CRIME/SECURITY: The use of the Identity Card is instrumental in keeping crime low with quicker identification of criminals and criminal remnants. It will become easier to identify and match finger prints with crime scenes, and deal with the increased crime sophistication which can no longer be dealt with ordinarily.
Security officials have done so much to deal with terrorism, but how much can they do when Uganda is almost a nation of Immigrants-by default? Illegal immigration may be a threat, and to deal with such, including sophisticated terrorism, National Identification becomes an immediate necessity.

By early 2000, detecting terrorism might have been easy but today, a new challenge has emerged. Highly educated, well trained young people with access to advanced and sophisticated computer technology unconsciously, or out of coercion join terror. Terrorism knows no command and structure. Security agencies can work tirelessly, but dealing with that sophistication will take an Identity Card to reinforce the existing measures as a force multiplier. We need the Identity Card yesterday!

While Policing levels in Uganda are up from approximately 13,000 by 1986 to over 43,000 today, the challenge remains. A well trained police with a citizenry that is identified will detect and prevent crime, especially with drug, child and human trafficking. Comparatively, crime in Singapore is among the lowest in the world with about 5 people dying in 2011 according to a UN Report!. We should critically study these development trends and the practices there-in. There is a glaring need for Police and intelligence to deal with security and safety, to sustain peace and stability and more importantly, keep Uganda as a destination of investment and tourism. It is no secret that crime is a big threat to tourism and investment.

f. IMPROVED SERVICES DELIVERY: A few months ago, there were numerous reports of ghost teachers and workers, which raised questions with in the Public service. This card will greatly enhance the capability of Government to deal with ghosts once and for all, thus saving on money and resources especially if this machine readable biometric card is linked to the Integrated Financial System.
An identified citizenry will ease planning in the social services sector especially in institutions like schools and hospitals with known numbers and identifications. By 2017, the Identity Card will be a requirement for citizens to enroll in schools. Can the wanaichi afford to lose out on such?
g. REGIONAL INTERGRATION AND INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS:
At Integration level, this card will facilitate widened and deepened Regional integration.
• On Integration of the East African Community, as countries base on verifiable and reliable data, It will provide support for protocols on the free movement of goods, services and people across the region. Ugandans who intend to carry out businesses especially in the East African region will find a great importance in carrying their Identification.
• This biometrically enhanced, machine readable card also fulfills some of the International obligations like the International Civil Aviation Authority Standards, e-Passport, passport Processing & Issuance as well as enhancing the image of Uganda that had generated negativity in the passport sector. More importantly, the National Identity Card will assist the Immigration department in facilitating legal residence and border crossing/ checks.
While we need citizens to access citizenry benefits, we also need to deal with people who are living illegally in our country. They should be held to account, and should be subjected to rigorous security checks. We need to end our Identity Crisis, by coming up with a National data bank. I can never underscore thus, the importance of this exercise. We cannot also undermine enhancing of free and quick movements within East Africa where Uganda has been allowed to use voters’ and student cards as travel document, against the fact that most of these cards have no security features. For how long shall we do this? We need the Identity Card 150m people of the community to travel freely.

h. IMPROVED DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE TO FACILITATE A CONDUSIVE CLIMATE FOR INVESTMENT
This Identity Card will support the Electoral Process –as a requirement for voting, enhancing voter list generation and verification-all for Smart elections. That is why the ongoing mass enrolment exercise targets citizens who are 16 years –to be able to use their Identity Card when they are of voting age(18 years).
Our citizens have been address-less for long, thus making this exercise very timely. There are countries with very small populations like Benin, others with very many challenges, but they have an Identification card system in place. Uganda cannot afford to stay behind for long. Besides, In March 2013, Uganda’s long term collective development aspirations as embodied in the Vision 2040, was launched by His Excellency the President. Vision 2040 provides a roadmap to transform Uganda from a low income to a modern middle income country within 30 years as the transformational journey to attaining a first world status continue. This though requires a fundamental shift; to unlock any existing or emerging constraints to Uganda’s progress. So much potential lies beneath and an Identification system unlocks that potential.

We are extremely grateful to His Excellency the President who has guided the uniqueness of this exercise as a Multi-sectoral implementation agency. He again led by example; registering at his home in Rwakitura; Kiruhura-as did the Rt.Hon Prime Minister in Kihihi, Kanungu.

True indeed, our Country is on the match to prosperity. This match is unstoppable and un-delay-able. It is now peaceful and stable and In order to consolidate our solid achievements, and guarantee other successes, we need to identify our people with this biometric and electronic machine readable card.
There is a huge task ahead of us, but we know that the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

My Country, My Identity!

Aronda Nyakairima (cgsc, MP) (RIP)
Minister for Internal Affairs
National Coordinator, NSIS Project