The biggest mistake any Ugandan will ever commit is to misplace or lose their National Identity card (National ID). The thief who snatched my purse, which contained my personal documents, ushered me into a very painful experience in my attempt to get my ID replaced.
I lost it in July but was not keen on replacing it until last month when I heard an advert over the radio that we would get them replaced free of charge at the Uganda Revenue Authority’s Tax Appreciation week event.
On September 28 I woke up very early in the morning to go to Kololo Airstrip where the event was. I was there by 6:30am and was shocked to find a very long queue that early. The line included all people who had come with different purposes.
I asked my immediate neighbour what she was in Kololo for and she said she had come for Hepatitis immunization. The person behind me had come to check on the authenticity of her land title. I soon realized that it was futile to be in such an undefined queue so I decided to go back to my place of work and try again the following day.
On the 29th I woke up early and went to Kololo. This time the previous day’s problem had been solved because there was a clear stall for National IDs. I found a vantage position to stand only to be told that if I were for ID replacement I was in the wrong line. I was told to stand in a Diamond Trust Bank line where I had to pay UGX 52,300 for the replacement.
When I finally made the payment, I thought it was now over so I went where I was supposed to proceed with the replacement. To my amazement, I found another line, this time far longer than the one at the bank. The only relief was that this was a sitting line.
I asked around and I was shown the direction the line was taking. I sat down. Somewhere through the movement someone asked me: “Do you still have your receipts and the necessary papers?” I answered in the affirmative. He was kind enough to inform me that the papers to be worked on for the day had already been collected so I should go to another side to submit my papers.
On that other side I was able to submit the papers after an hour. My name was called out later and I was told to return with my papers the following day.
It would now be three days chasing the same thing. I asked one officer whether I must return the following day and he advised that since I had paid, I could return any other day.
On Monday October 8, I decided to trek again to the Airstrip. I lined up on the sitting line but midway through I realized that the papers had already been collected.
Out of some sort of kindness, a lady- soldier told those whose papers had not been collected to go to another line where papers were being collected. I was finally able to submit my papers and I was told to come back on Wednesday 10th October.
As we were walking away I met someone who had been cleared and she advised me to be at the venue by atleast 4.00am. This was ridiculous, I thought. Fortunately my husband was willing to drive me to go and accomplish this deadly mission but not to be there at 4:00am. It would be 5.00am. I was surprised to find people already lined up. This early coming was about taking positions and nothing else.
At about 8.00am someone came to collect the papers to be worked on for that day. I did not have them since I had submitted them on Monday. When we told the officer about the status of some of us he said he was not aware.
“Those who gave their papers to someone from the other side should wait for that person to come,” he said in a tone that was quite rude.
By about 11.00am those of us whose papers were on the other side were called and asked to listen carefully. The officer told us that she was taking only 15 people out of about a hundred. I became nervous. My name was read out after about ten names. I almost jumped for joy.
We were asked to go and line up on the sitting line where I was probably No. 300. My prayer was to have this as the final day here. At about 1.00pm it started to rain. We moved to the uppermost side. There the blue seats were all broken and extremely dirty.
I wondered whether the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) executive director was aware of this. The rain stopped at around 3:00pm. My spirit was waning every passing minute. After a while my name was read out again. I was directed to another place where, again, they would read my name to go and get photographed.
Some “waiters” congratulated me for this piece of achievement. I walked with my head held high to this new “heaven.” In this particular place almost all the blue chairs were broken so with no space to sit, I had to stand and wait. Some few names were eventually read and I finally found myself space to sit.
By now it was approaching 4.00pm. I continued to pray to God to stop the clock so I could at least get photographed. At that time all of us must have been praying. It clocked 5:00pm. Somebody announced that the rest of us were for the following day. God had answered other people’s payers and not mine. I bowed my head down and slowly started to walk away.
The hunger that had been subdued by anxiety came back with full force, punching me in the head, in the stomach, even below the waist. My feet could hardly carry me now. When I finally got a boda-boda, I reflected on another hopeless day as we rode home.
On Thursday, the following day, I was at the airstrip at 7.00am. My clock kept ticking away as I patiently sat waiting. I was resigned to my fate. At about 2.00pm my name was pronounced. It was as though I was hearing it for the first time.
I stood up and I was guided to a place where I would be photographed. In a way it felt special taking this path – it felt like taking the road to heaven.
After taking the pictures I was informed that I would have to wait for three months to collect my ID. While I considered that wait to be too long, my fellow sufferers, my newly acquired friends, told me that those people did not tell me the whole truth.
Some of my new friends had been chasing this same document for the past eight months and by all indication the wait seemed to be still on.
Any time this document comes, I will make 100 duplicates and take the original to the bank for safe custody. I am not ready to go through this ordeal again!