One Million Ugandans Hastily Apply for E-Passports

A day after the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) outlawed the Machine-Readable Passport (MRP), it has emerged that over 1.5 million Ugandans had applied in the last days to acquire the electronic passport.

Simon Mundeyi, the Spokesperson for Ministry of Internal Affairs, has revealed that by the time the April 4th deadline reached on Monday this week, a number of Ugandans had applied to acquire the Electronic Machine-Readable Travel Document (e-MRTD).

The government of Uganda through DCIC spent the last two years announcing a gradual phase out of all MRPs whose final day came yesterday. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, on Tuesday announced an extension for MRP deadline citing an agreement reached by East African council of ministers.

However, Mundeyi told Daily Press Uganda (DPU) that the more than two years they gave Ugandans to acquire e-Passports was more than enough. Mundeyi said they will not listen to anyone asking for revocation of the deadline which occurred a day ago.

“For us we are not contravening what the council of ministers resolved. They resolved that November this year should be the final deadline. For us we decided to do it early. We are not extending. We phased out such passports yesterday (Monday),” Mundeyi said.

DCIC said because of the widely and wildly publicised MRP deadline, many Ugandans rushed to apply for passports including those that had never acquired one. Mundeyi says before the campaign for e-MRTDs was launched over three years ago, there were only 1 million Ugandans owning a passport.

“The sensitisation programs we conducted made people understand that the importance of having a passport. We currently have more than 2 million Ugandans who have successfully applied and acquired e-MRTDs. We also have over 1.5 million Ugandans in the queue in our system. They will all be getting their passports soon,” Mundeyi said.

DCIC admits that the spike in numbers of Ugandans getting e-passports has greatly been influenced by young people going to search for employment in foreign countries. Other people have acquired passports so that they are to go medical treatment overseas, going for abroad studies.

Even though more than 2 million Ugandans have already obtained e-MRTDs, including the waiting 1.5 million people in waiting, Mundeyi explains that the numbers are still very law compared to the over 42 million Ugandans. Mundeyi adds that their target is having at least 5 million people.

 In order to increase the numbers, DCIC has set up passport centres in Mbarara to cater for people the western, Mbale to cate for eastern, Gulu to cater for northern and Arua that will cater for west Nile. Other passport access centres have been set up to simplify passport access centre in Washington, London, Pretoria, Ottawa, Beinjing and Amsterdam. Ugandans in such areas have been urged to utilize them rather than trekking to the headquarter where they will not be helped since they will not be an appointment.