Sim Card Verification exposes the joke that UCC has become

Only Dr. Stella Nyanzi in my view has the right vocabulary to effectively describe the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and its haphazard handling of issues.

Five years ago, the commission huffed and puffed about the need to register sim cards citing security as one of the key reasons it was being done.


Eng. Mutabazi being assisted during the launch of the registration exercise. Photo Credit – Daily Monitor, 2012

The Executive Director, Eng Godfrey Mutabazi is on record having said that, “In countries where SIM card registration has been taken seriously, a drop in crime especially cybercrime has been registered. We want to emulate this and see to it that such unlawful acts are done away with.”


Many of us supported the move and even used various fora to enlighten the general public about the importance of registration. The deadline set for 2013 passed and before we knew it another threat was issued to the telecoms companies to ensure that the process is completed in 2015. Interestingly, we were led to believe that the issue had been sorted once and for all.

To my shock, earlier this year, information from the Police begun pointing fingers at the use of unregistered simcards by criminal gangs. The UCC kept mum. Is it because the victims were largely lay men? It wasn’t until the investigations into the assassination of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mr. Felix Kaweesi (RIP) that the UCC was jolted out of its slumber.

With the kind of resources this institution commands, it is foolhardy for one to believe that they have a genuine reason for such a lapse in judgement. I strongly believe this is a sign of gross incompetence in the institution that is failing to offer the much needed direction for the ICT industry, preferring to concentrate on shutting down internet during election time as well as shopping for pornography tracking equipment. It seems like UCC is narrowing its attention to matters that involve procurement (this was actually intimated to me by a Member of Parliament) as they offer quick gains to the individuals involved there-in as well as satisfying the politburo’s demands. These two areas of engagement I presume form the basis for any contract renewal that the head of the institution is definitely interested in.

By failing to do the obvious, the Eng Mutabazi led outfit has slowed down the pace set by Mr. Patrick Masambu the former Executive Director of UCC who is currently the Director General of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (ITSO). Despite the massive hurdles he went through to set up this institution, Mr Masambu defied all odds to leave a healthy and globally acclaimed institution in place.

The latest gaffe has been the press release by UCC that orders Telecommunication service providers to verify all SIM card subscriber details within seven (7) days starting 12th April 2017. The communique advises the public to visit the nearest authorised telecoms service centres as well as utilising the *197#.

I can only shake my head in disbelief because whoever came up with this decision at UCC is out of touch with reality. Do they think that they are managing a home? Do they realistically expect even 50% of the Ugandans to get sorted within one week? Which world are these !#%&^396$#@ living in? (Dr. Nyanzi the queen of metaphors please come to my rescue here)

Now to Eng Mutabazi and your team, do you really believe that:

  • All Ugandans are within 7 days reach of a recognised Telecoms Service Centre?

  • All Ugandans will have got the information to pursue this activity within 7 days?

  • All Ugandans will have the money and time to make it to the various centres within 7 days?

  • All Ugandans have National IDs?

  • All Ugandans are utilising their cell numbers within the boundaries of this country?

  • All Ugandans have time to repeatedly go to Telecoms service centres in a bid to repeat activities they had already engaged in?

Take the example of this guy


Meanwhile, like you can see, he at least might be able to afford the entire exercise financially. What happens to the many that cant afford it and also reside where he is currently working? [Pointing my index finger onto my bald head saying “COMMON SENSE IS NOT COMMON”]

Meanwhile of the seven (7) days given, four of them are taken up by the Easter Holidays. For a country that is over 70% Christian, why do you think they will leave their celebrations to attend to an exercise that was caused by your incompetence?

When will you get out of this gambling nature that seems to have become a part of your operational manual? I do believe that UCC as an institution has some very brilliant minds, a number of whom are known to me personally but the way the institution is operating as a whole, makes any outsider think it is a bunch of jokers. This should be a wakeup call to the appointing authority, at this rate, the efforts to attain Middle Income status are likely to be sabotaged by an inefficient Communication and Technology Sector whose regulatory agency seems to be operating in a reactive rather than proactive manner.

This seven day deadline is simply a poorly thought through decision that only serves to lay bare the incompetence of the institution we are meant to look upto for guidance. Could it be time for a total purge?

Let me go pick my orange tree seedlings and plant before the rains cease. I think I have had enough of this circus.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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2 responses to “Sim Card Verification exposes the joke that UCC has become

  1. The issue really isn’t the unregistered Sim Cards or, the failure to have implemented a Sim card registration. Attributing “cyber crime” to having unregistered mobile phones misses the point. I believe all of the resources invested and to be invested are better put to use if they were to invest in undertakings that trigger the commission of crime as opposed to “catching ” whoever it is alleged may have committed cyber crime.

    For example, Dr Stella Nnyanzi’s various activities the government takes issue with, for whatever reason (s) were sparked off by the President’s unfulfilled promises relative to supplying girls with free sanitary pads. More importantly, having to pledge sanitary pads during the last presidential campaign is activity and a political stunt that never should have been undertaken if the government of Uganda were the type of government with priorities that are people centered as opposed to politicians and families and cronies. That is the issue. That is the issue that cannot and will not be resolved by registering every Sim Card in Uganda.
    Indeed, it is those and similar circumstances that generate the type and extent of outrage that Ugandans, including but not limited to Dr. Stella Nnyanzi, find abhorrent and a disgrace. Doing the right thing, doing what is in the best interests of ordinary Ugandans as opposed to the high and mighty, is the type of government obligation that silences the alleged misuse of Mobile phones and social media without spending a single bullet or, if events most recent are to go by, without the necessity to armrest, torture, restrain and, in the process, expend millions of shillings in an effort to muzzle the likes of Dr. Stella Nnyanzi.
    Allow me to ask this question:
    What is the government going to do next, when are resend if Ugandans start riding bycycles as a sign of protest? Require that every bicycle be registered? BTW, bicycles are registered in civilized economies for reasons that have nothing to do with government’s monitoring of citizens as an exercise intended to spy on citizens in order to know each and every step.

    The registration of Sim Cards has nothing to do with law enforcement . Although law enforcement may in the long run be enhanced, the motivation herein is to keep tabs on each mobile phone users in the hope that government will in the process identify who it is that may be saying things that the government finds unflattering.

    Registering Sim Cards or not will not affect how Ugandans behave. I know that I can broadcast and communicate with anyone on planet earth using the Messenger App and Facebook facility which does not require a Sim Card. So I ask again, what is the government expecting to earn after expending the millions of shillings that will undoubtedly be required in the process? How will registering Sim Cards prohibit Dr. Stella Nnyanzi and others from doing that which the government considers unacceptable? Above all, how will the government censor, that is what it really is, Ugandans who don’t require a local number and local provider to use their Mobile phones?

    This is a waste of resources which ought to be invested in Healthcare to curtail the outrageous 18 lives we lose on a daily basis as a result of bleeding to death during child birth, a fact of which is the direct and proximate result of woefully misapplied and deficient priorities.

    God Help Us Heal From Our Self-inflicted Wounds!


  2. More Questions…..
    1. What are the right and authorised documents for this registration update?. A national ID, a Passport or both?
    2. What happens to people who lost their National ID or have their names Mis-spelt and have no Passport yet?
    3. What if one is unable to update within the given ultimatum of 7 days from today 12th April 2017? What happens?
    4. If I subscribe to more than two Telecoms, and I use my right names, Will there be issues?
    5. Does that given USSD work across all networks? Anyone tried on all?
    6. In the event that one goes ahead to update and is still switched off, is there an avenue to complain without any further inconvenience? Because I think this is too huge an inconvenience already.
    7. And finally, if nothing happened after the 7 days switch off threat, shall we start reading things like “UCC has extended the deadline for SIM card update blah blah” like was did fir the initial registration?


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