Uganda’s parliament has voted to block the move by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to switch off mobile services for all users with unregistered SIM cards. MPs have passed a resolution calling on the UCC to extend the deadline for up to one year to give customers more time to authenticate their accounts. The UCC had previously said that all users should re-register their handsets using the information on the country’s new National ID card, setting an initial deadline of 20 April, before extending the switch-off date to 19 May.
However, Leader of the Opposition Winnie Kiiza called for a vote to extend the deadline still further, saying that information on the registration process had only been issued in two languages – English and Luganda – raising fears that speakers of other languages would not have been aware of the move. There was also criticism of the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) – the body responsible for issuing the new ID cards – with many people complaining about delays in getting cards or having applications rejected.
According to a report from The Observer in Kampala, as of last week the UCC had validated around 18.2 million SIM cards, in a country with some 22.6 million mobile lines in service. The NIRA, meanwhile, says that around 15 million ID cards have been issued and a further one million applications rejected. The discrepancy between the figures from the UCC and NIRA is because many cellular users in Uganda have more than one SIM card. The NIRA is urging mobile users to continue applying for ID cards and re-registering their SIM cards with their operators.