Uganda: UCC Gives Phone Users 7 Days to Register Afresh

21 April 2017

Telecoms

Kampala — Seven days from today, the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) and the police will switch off all subscriber identification module (SIM) cards that were registered without using the National Identification cards, and passports.

The ultimatum was announced yesterday at a joint press briefing by UCC executive director, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, and Gen Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, at UCC head offices at Bugolobi, a Kampala suburb.

Mr Mutabazi said UCC will deactivate all SIM cards that have not been re-validated using national IDs for Ugandans, passports for foreigners, and certified documents by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) for refugees.

Citing the recent unresolved killing of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi together with his bodyguard, Gen Kayihura said the order to phone users to re-register was intended to curb criminality that has been aided by using unregistered telephone numbers.

"Registered service subscribers should be re-verified using the national IDs. This is the evidence one must produce as a legitimate SIM card user. All SIM cards that won't be revalidated after the seven days will be deactivated immediately," Mr Mutabazi said.

He echoed last week's directive to remove from circulation all unregistered and pre-registered SIM cards and stop the vending of SIM cards on the street.

"We are going to serve these guidelines to telecom companies by tomorrow [today] to ensure these resolutions are enforced with immediate effect. Those who will not comply will have their licences suspended or revoked," Mr Mutabazi warned.

Gen Kayihura said mobile phones have become weapons in the hands of criminals but the guidelines will ensure technological advancements are not abused by wrongdoers.

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"The 2010 terrorism [in Kampala] and recent crime murders of prominent people, including Sheikhs and our comrade [AIGP] Kaweesi, were coordinated using mobile phones, whose owners are difficult to track because they were not registered," Gen Kayihura said. There have been claims that AIGP Kaweesi, who was shot dead alongside his bodyguard Kenneth Erau and driver Godfrey Wambewo in Kulambiro, a Kampala city suburb, first received a death threat and text message via unregistered SIM card subscribers.

Mr Anthony Katamba, the general manager of corporate services at MTN Uganda, said they were not aware of the new guidelines and described it as a hurried move, which did not take into consideration the 23m telecom subscribers in the country.

Referring to last week's meeting attended by IGP, UCC staff and managers of telecom companies, Mr Katamba said they proposed that ample time be given to telecom companies to educate their subscribers on the need to validate their SIM card registration using their national IDs.

"We are not aware of the [new] directive. We never adopted it in the meeting we had with UCC and other authorities. We talked of having a validation framework for re-registration of SIM cards," Mr Katamba said.

In response to concerns about the limited timeframe allowed, Mr Mutabazi said it was upon the subscribers to approach the nearest service centres of their respective telecom companies.

Mr Steven Baryevuga, the Africel's public relations consultant, said they had no problem with the directive.

Ms Faith Bugonzi, the Airtel's publicist, said she was not in position to comment since she did not attend the first consultative meeting between UCC, the telecom companies and the security agencies.

Source: The Monitor