Court dismisses SIM deactivation case; MPs call for ministry to form UCC board

2 Sep 2013

Uganda’s High Court has dismissed a case filed by the Uganda Human Rights Network (HRN) and the Legal Brains Trust seeking to stop the nation’s telecoms regulator from blocking SIMs as part of its SIM registration scheme, local paper the Observer writes. The two groups argued that the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) did not have the authority to deactivate unregistered SIM cards. The UCC began the SIM registration programme in March 2012, with an initial deadline of 31 March 2013, although this was later postponed until the end of August 2013 after cellcos requested additional time to sign up their subscribers: around 80% of SIMs had been registered by late May 2013 and according to the UCC, registration reached 92% by the final cut-off point at the end of last month.

In related news, the Ugandan parliament has issued a directive to the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology instructing it to appoint a board for the UCC before the passing of the regulator’s budget for the current financial year, New Vision reports. The UCC’s operation without a board was described by parliament as ‘an illegality’, with MP Mathias Mbuuga quoted as saying: ‘The UCC has for the last three years been hiring staff and spending public funds illegally because they have no board, yet the minister [for ICT, Nyombi Thembo] continues to promise to constitute one during every budget process.’ Thembo’s offer to establish a board in three months was rejected as an ‘outrageous’ delay.