Why Uganda’s High Court Declined To Block Sim Registration Process



The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) continues with Sim registration after the high court declined to block the process.

Justice Eldard Mwangusya while responding on the case said that the application for an injunction by the Human Rights Network for Journalists was not formally filed in court and could not be upheld.

The journalists, through Web Advocates and Associates, had claimed that the March 1st deadline and the directives or notices threatened to violate the citizen’s right to communication, freedom from deprivation of property, and other related rights of consumers of telecommunication services.

They expressed that the court would declare that the UCC, Attorney General and their agents had not carried out structured and sufficient public consultations and sensitization. They therefore sought a court order restraining the Uganda Communication Commission, the Attorney General and their agents from switching off or directing telecommunication service providers to switch off the users of unregistered SIM cards on 1 March or any other deadline set by the Commission before rectifying the anomalies as per the suit.

UCC on the other hand argued that the registration of SIM cards in Uganda is in line with The Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, 2010. “The registration exercise intends to, among others, help law enforcement agencies to identify the mobile phone SIM card owners, track criminals who use phones for illegal activities, curb other negative incidents, and also help service providers know their customers better” UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi said.

The court pointed out that the main suit will be heard on May 2, 2013,just after UCC registration deadline.

At the moment many subscribers are rushing to register before deadline on March 1st, as a result most telecom companies have hired extra manpower to cope up with the large numbers of subscribers and have pitched mobile tents in almost every shopping centre in order not to lose out on their subscribers.

According to UCC’s executive director, he noted that the exercise is entirely free and the cost is supposed to be covered by the telecommunications companies. He said this to clarify allegations that some subscribers are being asked to pay between UGX 2000-4000 in order to be registered.