These e-passports have chips that are easier to read by the micro-processor reader at border points.
By David Serumaga
The Government of Uganda this week unveiled the new batch of international East African electronic passport (e-passport) replacing the ordinary ones.
This e-Passport came after an East African Community (EAC) directive by the Heads of State; Government of Uganda aims to implement this directive by introducing new e-Passport and the first batch was delivered on Monday 3, to the Minister of Internal Affairs.
These e-passports have chips that are easier to read by the micro-processor reader at border points. They also have safety measures like biometric data which makes it hard to forge
However, our legislators have come up to challenge this process on grounds that the protocol of changing it was not followed and Parliament was not consulted. Secondly, some think that it was unlawfully to phase out the current passports yet a number of them are still valid beyond 2021. Lastly, their concern was on the increased fees used to acquire this new e-Passport.
Yes, our legislators have the mandate to approve such changes but I am worried of them to come out at this moment yet the process started longtime ago, it was in the media even before the first batch of the e-Passport were issued. Addition to this, I am very sure that the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Affairs knew about this process but decided to sit on it. This proves that some of our legislators just decide to paint a bad picture on government yet they had enough time to put it right.
When our MPs insisted on blocking the e-passport, I took time to read some of the information on the current passport. On the second last page, there notes for everyone who holds a passport should know but since some of our MPs did not take time to read this information or in n case there those who read, it proves that they deliberately too that information for granted. To every Ugandan who has been persuaded by the critics of our legislators on the e-Passport, should have a look on the following two points noted and the caution in the current passport.
1. Uganda passports are issued by the competent authority in Uganda and by the Uganda Government’s Diplomatic and Consular Offices in foreign countries.
2. Passports are valid for 10 years and will not be extended beyond this period. The fee for the passports shall be determined by Government. If at any time the passport contains no further space for visas, a new passport should be obtained
Caution; this property remains the property of Government of Uganda and may be withdrawn at anytime
The first point brings it out clearly that these passports are going to be issued authoritatively but my main concentration is on the second notes and the caution. It is true that our passports are valid of 10 years but we should also look at the caution which says that a passport remains the property of Government of Uganda and may be withdrawn at anytime. This proves that in any case the government finds it irrelevant to still use the old passports, new ones can be issued. This answers the question of some of our legislators who are worried about the passports which might be phased out when they are still valid.
Furthermore to the above concern, it is clearly noted in our passports that “the fee for the passports shall be determined by Government.” This elucidate the concerns of our MPs who were worried about the slight increment in the international East African e-Passport fees because government has the mandate to determine the fee to be paid depending on level of property issued in this case the passport. The e-Passports have chips that are easier to read by the micro-processor reader at border points which is done digitally in a short period of time.
A number of Ugandans have been victims of acquiring forged passports which affected their travels, businesses and land them into police custody. In order to curb this issue, Government has added value on our passport by digitalizing it with safety measures like biometric data which makes it hard to forge. All those added values come with extra cost meaning that the amount of issuing and acquiring the e-Passport will not be the same like the current passports.
The writer is the president, Buganda Youth Wing