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Ugandans wake up to reality of disabled simcards

By Geoffrey Mutegeki

Added 22nd May 2017 10:33 AM

It is not clear why Ugandans have developed this kind of last minute mentality when it comes to the point of doing something.

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It is not clear why Ugandans have developed this kind of last minute mentality when it comes to the point of doing something.

Over the last one month Ugandans have been skeptical if actually the government could switch off their simcards if they failed to validate them.

Many went to social media to prove to others on how Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) can never switch off the unregistered lines.

Even on Friday when the Minister of ICT Frank Tumwebaze issued a statement that the deadline won’t be extended, Ugandans laughed him off, saying it is the usual threats by government.

Many stayed adamant.

On Friday, Parliament passed a motion seeking UCC to extend the deadline for sim-card registration for not more than one year. But this was underscored by the executive.

Shortly after Parliament paid tribute to the late Boniface Byanyima, Kadaga said the Executive has disrespected the voices of the people which she said was unacceptable and would not go unchallenged.

“Ever since the issue of registration started, the Minister has not had the courtesy to reach the House. He has not even understood, not even heard the difficulties the people of this coun­try through their elected representatives,” said Kadaga.

However, by Saturday, morning a good majority woke up to the reality that this is actually time for no jokes.

No calls could be made, neither was it possible to access the phone internet.

It is the first time government has been serious on the issue matters regarding deadlines. All the other times there have been extensions and indecision on the set deadlines.

Following, Tumwebaze’s statement, President Museveni tweeted, arguing Ugandans to adhere to the deadline.

 “I support efforts of authorities to register SIM cards & urge all to adhere to the deadline. It's a critical step in the fight against crime,” said President Museveni in his tweet on the deadline of the Simcard registration.

Last month government decided to extend the SIM-card verification exercise to May 19, 2017, from April 20 after a section of Ugandans complained that the time is not enough.

All mobile phone subscribers were required to update their records by submitting their national identification numbers (NINs) to service providers.

The one month period ended on Friday May 19, but as it has become usual Ugandans to expect deadline extensions many have been caught off side.

The registration of SIM cards is intended to help law security agencies to track criminals and curb phone theft, fraud, threats and incitement of violence.

“I’ve been disconnected, but i know government will still extend the deadline. I will take my time and register my line at leisure. I know our people in government are always not serious,” says David Lukungu, a boda boda rider at Mutungo stage in Kampala.

However Lilian Kansime, a resident of Entebbe feels the pinch after her line got disconnected.

“They have caught me offside; I never thought this was serious. I’m going to pick my ID and register,” she says.

It is not clear why Ugandans have developed this kind of last minute mentality when it comes to the point of doing something.

For example, many registered for National ID’s but have never turned up to pick them. 

“It is not the first time that Ugandans are complaining of deadline, in most cases they are given enough time to do things; they wait for the last minute,” says Gilbert Kadilo, the spokesperson of National Information Registration Authority (NIRA).

He reveals that even if they are given a year still many will not turn up.

This was evidenced on deadline day, when majority of Ugandans stayed home instead of going to pick their ID’s.

NIRA on Friday kept tweeting on how, Ugandans did not turn up for the ID’s at Kololo.

“Even with hardly anyone to serve this afternoon, our teams will patiently wait to serve applicants who may show up,” read one of the tweets from NIRA.

For the past few days, NIRA was being overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up to have their National Identity cards.

Aren’t Ugandans amazing people? You will never simply understand them when it comes to taking things serious.

According to Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris, citizens needs to be concerned over these deadline extensions.

“People, businesses and countries can never progress without deadlines being followed. If our leaders can’t enforce stuff, we should actually engage them,” Wekesa says.

He highlights the examples of Helmets, Speed governors, Seat belts, which were brought up by government but disappeared in the air.

“The Countries we admire who seem progressive actually operate in very tough environments. They are working on deadlines in everything,” he says.

Peter Lule, from Butabika commends government for being strict and upholding the deadline despite the calls by parliament to have it extended.

“I know some people who deliberately refused to register because they wanted to see if actually government would switch them off,” says Peter Lule.

Time for government to show seriousness

In 2012 Uganda Communication Commission announced it would technically make it impossible for all fake phones from accessing any network.

2013, was the year set to disable, the phones, but this did not yield anything. The fake phones are still on market.

Who knows the digital migration deadline? What happened to the helmets? What happened to Kavera ban deadline?

“If you do not want to get into trouble of getting penalty for late submission, always do it early well before the dateline. It only takes a few minutes when you do it earlier compared to few hours when you do it on the last few days,” says Joyce Namugga, hailing from Nakawa.

While the switch off will disable voice communication on the affected SIM cards, the exercise of verification continues just as registration of citizens is continuous.

About 92% of the simcards had been registered by Friday according to telecom companies.

Citizen with the requisite registration/verification documents will then approach their service provider to either register for any new SIM card or verify their old but switched off cards.

Mobile money not switched off

Mobile money users have been given a grace period since mobile money accounts will not be suspended. Users can only withdraw but not deposit.

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