By General Aronda Nyakairima
The National identity card project under the theme ‘My Country, under the multi-sectoral implementation of key agencies – the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Uganda registration Services Bureau, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration, the Electoral Commission and National Information and Technology Authority of Uganda.
While all efforts have been made to ensure smooth implementation of this project, our cardinal duty is to encourage all citizens to enroll for what is a countrywide, Non-partisan, non-sectarian, and non-discriminative exercise.
The benefits of this card are numerous. Firstly, it will facilitate delivery of national development based on reliable and verifiable data under the National Identification Register.
This data enables effective Government planning for provision of easy access to social facilities and services at local and national level. Identification also facilitates more transparent and trustworthy business transactions between individuals and institutions. For the citizens, the identity card guarantees the unique association of “one-document/one-identity” in registration for services like the driving permit, voting purposes, passport, etc.
With economy and finance, we look back when the country was torn apart by perpetual insecurity and extra-judicial killings. It took collective efforts to liberate the population and the economy from negative growth of 44% in 1985/1986 growing to over 6.2% today. This economic liberation needs citizen identification to enhance further growth. There are different economic activities that need quick and daily registration, like the small and big microfinance and savings and credit organizations. These are a huge source of economic activity for credit financing and borrowing.
Institutions cannot continue operating without proper citizen identification. Only the identity card will provide financial institutions with secure and undoubtable data where the wanainchi can easily access financial services. Besides, the use of the card in financial institutions will stop money laundering and deal with increased financial indiscipline of multiple loans dealers and defaulters.
Furthermore, with increased revenue generation and management, use of biometric cards will greatly assist Uganda Revenue Authority, as a data beneficiary for effective taxation targets and management.
In Security, the use of the identity card as a force multiplier is instrumental in quick and reliable identification of criminals and criminal remnants. Increased crime sophistication can no longer be dealt with ordinarily. Security officials have done a lot to deal with terrorism, but national identification is an immediate necessity against new threats of sophisticated terrorists operating without command and structure. We must sustain stability and keep Uganda as a destination of investment and tourism.
As Government works tirelessly to improve service delivery, a few challenges like the numerous reports of ghost workers remain. Generation of the National Identification Register and eventual issuance of the card will enhance the capability of Government to deal with ‘ghosts’ in all institutions once and for all, thus saving on money and resources. In educational institutions, the identity card will be a requirement for citizens to enroll by 2017.
Furthermore, the card will facilitate regional and international integration, providing support for protocols like free movement of goods, services, and people across the region. Ugandans who intend to carry out businesses especially in the East African region will appreciate their unique identification. The national identity card will assist the Immigration department in facilitating legal residence and border crossing/checks. It will also effectively deal with people who are living illegally in our country.
In improved democracy and good governance, national identity cards will support the electoral process as a requirement for voting and enhancing voter registration. That is why the upcoming mass enrollment exercise targets citizens who are 16 years and above – to use it when they are of voting age within two years. Our country is on an unstoppable march. Uganda is now peaceful and stable and in order to consolidate our solid achievement, and guarantee other successes, we need this biometric machine readable card.
As we embark on enrolling Ugandans in an exercise that starts at all parishes in February, we seek public support for the exercises that will follow, namely, card issuance and continuous registration. There is a huge task ahead of us, but we know that the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward. The year 2014 is the year of deliverance.
The writer is the Minister of Internal Affairs and National Coordinator, National Identity Card Project.