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Deadline for SIM card registration extended in Uganda

Cell phone users now have until 29 May, 2013 to register their SIM cards with the Uganda Communications Commission.
Cell phone users now have until 29 May, 2013 to register their SIM cards with the Uganda Communications Commission.

Arvind Balaraman/Shutterstock

UPDATE from Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda: Court fixes date to hear SIM-card registration case (23 August 2013)

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has extended the SIM card registration deadline for 90 days, after the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda and the Legal Brains Trust (LBT) dragged it to court, seeking an injunction not to switch off unregistered subscribers on 1 March, 2013.

The matter had come up for final disposal before the Deputy Chief Registrar of the High Court Civil Division, His Worship John Eudes Keitirima on 1 March. HRNJ-Uganda and LBT agreed with the UCC and the Attorney General of Uganda to withdraw the application for a court injunction on the switch-off deadline, which was before His Worship John Eudes Keitirima of the High Court.

UCC's head of communications, Fred Otunnu, told the court (through his lawyer) that they had extended the SIM card registration deadline by 90 days to 29 May, 2013. He explained that the extension would not affect the hearing of the main suit due on 20 May, 2013. During that hearing, HRNJ-Uganda and LBT will claim that the registration process is marred with irregularities, illegalities and anomalies which must be rectified.

Through their lawyers (Denis Sembuya, Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde and Mugabi Siras Kahima), HRNJ-Uganda and LBT have also filed another application for a temporary injunction stopping the UCC from setting any other arbitrary deadline until the anomalies are resolved. The application will be heard on 11 March 2013. Otunu told court that the extension of the deadline will not also affect the application for a temporary injunction.

“This is a major victory and stride made in protecting the rights of Ugandans whose freedom to communicate was at stake if the UCC had deactivated their SIM cards. We implore the UCC to overhaul and rectify the anomalies in the process, to prevent the looming economic and social implications,” said HRNJ-Uganda's National Coordinator, Wokulira Ssebaggala.

According to the UCC, Uganda currently has 16 million phone users, and only 70 per cent of them have reportedly registered their SIM cards. On 26 February, telecommunication companies including MTN, Warid, Uganda Telecom, Airtel and Orange told the Ugandan Parliament's Information Communication Technology (ICT) Committee that, out of 16 million active subscribers, only 60 per cent had so far registered their SIM cards. They also revealed to the committee that they have encountered enormous challenges, as the exercise has been marred by inconsistencies, confusion and uncertainties. They unanimously asked for an extension.

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