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The East African : May 12th 2014
32 THIRD TIME LUCKY? The EastAfrican OUTLOOK MAY 10-16,2014 Many women MPs, not enough impact By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent IN JANUARY 2013, Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s Speaker, recalled parliament from recess over the death of Cerinah Nebanda, an outspoken legislator from the ruling NRM party. Ms Kadaga’s “about-turn” A van sensitising the Uganda public on the ID project last year. Will the exercise be successful this time round? Picture: File National ID project kicks off but fears of failure linger Can the gove≥nment complete a p≥oject that has been sh≥ouded in cont≥ove≥sy f≥om its inception? By BARBARA AMONG Special Correspondent again if registration kits are not delivered on time and in sufficient numbers. Up to 8,000 kits were to U be distributed across the country, a kit per sub-county, while just half of the required 16,000 officials have been recruited. “We pointed out this weak- ness several months ago,” said Richard Ssewakiryanga, executive director of the National NGO forum. The project, which official- ly kicked off two weeks ago, has so far seen 55,000 citizens register in the over 7,000 registration centres across the country. The target is to register 18 million Ugandans aged 16 years and above in the next four months. It is part of the National Security information system project, being implemented under the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The process has been dogged with problematic registration kits, incompetent enrolment officers and lack of storage space for equipment. Verifying citizenship is also a challenge. Uganda does not have proper birth or death records. The LC system, the closest authority being used to identify Ugandans, is al- ganda’s National Identification project could stall ready being challenged in court. The government hopes that by issuing the IDs, it will reduce fraud and aid in maintaining the integrity of the national voters’ register ahead of the 2016 polls. But can the government see through a project that has been shrouded in controversy from its inception? The government has lost close to Ush500 billion ($205 million) since the inception of the project more than a decade ago. The latest exercise will cost Ush285.6 billion ($116 million). Ministry of Internal Affairs public relations officer Pamela Ankunda said the government has deployed all the technical departments needed to man the process. Officials who have in the past handled the process are however skeptical of the massive registration exercise. Former ICT minister Ag- grey Awori under whose docket the second attempt to procure the ID failed, says the transfer of management of the process from the ICT Ministry with the technical knowhow to Internal Affairs could still affect the process. “ICT had suggested that a “Uganda lacks the resources and technology to procure chip-based IDs.” central data bank be created from which the government would issue IDs, voters cards and driving permits among others,” said Awori. According to Mr Awori, the 800 technical officials initially trained by the ICT ministry, are now employed as technical officers by Electoral Commission. The fresh registration, offi- cials say, will duplicate work already done by Immigration, Bureau of Statistics and Electoral Commission. However even with the re- launched exercise, concern raised by stakeholders such as the East African Community on the type of ID Uganda is planning to issue remains. Uganda is to issue the type of ID which uses barcode technology yet the East African secretariat as far back as 2008 advised Uganda to abandon that type of technology because it was unsuitable and not compatible with other counties in the region. Ms Akunda however said Uganda lacks the resources and technology to procure chip-based IDs. However the proposed IDs will meet the minimum standards set by the Community. Uganda is the only country in the region without national IDs and has been allowed to use voters’ and student cards as travel documents. The smartcard technol- ogy uses a chip instead of a barcode. A chip can accommodate a lot more information such as medical history, blood group, criminal records, and educational data, driving permits and social security data. It can also ELSEWHERE IN THE REGION ... In Kenya, the government plans to issue new digital identification cards to all citizens from the age of 12. Mid last year, Tanzania started issuing national identity cards. In March, Burundi started a pilot programme on the issuance of machine readable national identity cards. Rwanda on the other hand passed a law for the issuance of identity cards in 2008. dapibus est nec orci. Cras authenticate fingerprints and photographs. While the original project launched in 2003 involved the production of 12 million national ID cards, 14 million registration certificates and one million smart cards, the second project had targeted to issue IDs to 25 million Ugandans from age 16. The first attempt to pro- cure the national ID ended in 2005, when the process was cancelled by the IGG due to irregularities and corruption. In 2010, Muhlbauer Tech- nology Group, a Germanbased was handpicked to make the IDs. The process failed — Muhlbauer’s equipment was even stolen. Additional reporting by Fred Oluoch. Despite women such as Speaker Rebecca Kadaga rising to political leadership, their impact is still wanting. Picture: File followed her disagreement with President Yoweri Museveni over the special sitting that aimed to discuss the arrest of legislators, who the government accused of insinuating that it had killed Ms Nebanda, and the impending interrogation of the Speaker over the same. Museveni reportedly warned that parliament would reconvene — unless over his dead body. He reportedly promised “severe repercussions” for people behind the petition if they dared to defy him. Gender experts cite this standoff to best illustrate how militarisation of Uganda’s politics has structurally obstructed women in political leadership from making much difference in the lives of their colleagues across the country in spite of women’s increasing numbers in key governance and decision making positions. “Militarisation is not just the guns you see on the street. It is a whole ideology that holds you captive, that says ‘you do as I say or else…,” noted Associate Prof Josephine Ahikire, the lead researcher of a new study on what difference women have made to Uganda’s politics that Isis-WICCE, a global women’s organisation, commissioned. For a group like women, who already have less social power, militarism has combined perfectly with inadequate substantive knowledge on gender issues, sexualisation of politics, political patronage, and commercialisation of politics, to maintain their status “remarkably lower than that of men on all counts,” notes the study. By isolating these obsta- cles, Bedha Balikudembe Kireju, Isis-WICCE communications co-ordinator, says the study aims to refocus, widen, and position the discourse over gender equality within the country’s governance context. Kadaga occupies the third position in the country’s political hierarchy behind the president and his deputy. In parliament, she leads 135 women legislators —a 255 per cent growth in female representation in the House over the past two decades. Yet, the uptake of pro-women laws remain “uneven and unimpressive” just as “women’s access to and influence in parliament has been so frustratingly slow.” For majority of female legislators in NRM, their first allegiance is usually to the party than to advocate women’s concerns. In the current parlia- ment, for example, there are only 11 directly elected female MPs against 112 others, including Kadaga, who occupy seats specifically created for women. This reveals how women remain largely invisible beyond the gazetted quotas. This invisibility, according to the study, is reflected in inadequate service delivery, civic and/or technical knowledge. The special seats ex- ist courtesy of affirmative action that the present government has promoted since it came to power over a quarter century ago less out of strong convictions to correct historical gender inequalities but because of political pragmatism, according to Prof Ahikire. To confront present chal- lenges, Prof. Ahikire says women must double the passion that powered the women’s agenda in the 1990s when battles of inclusion were fought and won. “Now, you must first de- clare that we have a governance crisis,” prof Ahikire observed.
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