By Catherine Apolot
The first batch of 24,000 Electronic passports (E-passports) were on Tuesday launched by Internal Affairs Minister Jejje Odongo.
Odongo, while speaking at the ministry headquarters, said the new passports, which have better security features and will be easier to use. The new passport possesses better security features and is capable of storing holders’ data in a chip embedded within it.
They will cost Shs250, 000 for the ordinary one, Shs100,000 more than the ordinary ones that will be phased out by 2020. Official ones will go for Shs400,000 while diplomatic e-passports will cost Shs500,000.
The move, which according to Odongo will see Uganda joining a growing list of countries switching to the more secure E-passports, however has come under scrutiny especially from opposition politicians.
Muhammad Nsereko, the Shadow Minister for Security questioned the motive of government and threatened to go to court to stop the issuance on the e-passports.
“ How do you tell someone who has just paid for a passport meant to be valid for 10 years to pay new charges for a new passport?,” Nsereko, also Kampala Central MP said.
“How do you cater for those working abroad or Ugandans living in the diaspora, who don’t intend to return to Uganda within two years? Notwithstanding the fact that some embassies don’t even have the capability to print these new passports.”
According to Nsereko, the move is driven more by business than development.
“After realizing that over one million Ugandans hold passports, the company contracted and its backers know it’s a chance to make over Shs300 billion from this venture,” he said, advising that if indeed this was being done in good faith, the government should issue new e-passports at no pay especially those that still valid for nine years.
“Legally it’s a breach of contract by government. When a citizen pays for a service of 10 years, government as a party cannot receive that money from its citizens and then ask for new payment for the same upgraded document. Therefore this is real theft that Ugandans cannot accept,” he said.
“We cannot accept a government that colludes with private companies to rob from its citizens.”
Issuing of the new passports will start in 2021.
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