As government battles with citizens opposed to the ‘rushed’ issuance of the electronic passports, another hurting news has emerged, showing that the new ePassports can’t be used in some countries.
A screenshot of an email exchange between a Ugandan applying for a visa at the Danish embassy in Kenya has gone viral on social media, showing that his request was rejected, with authorities citing lack of reconciliation between governments.
“You have applied using the new Ugandan EAC passport that was launched in December 2018. Unfortunately, this passport is not yet approved by the Danish authorities, therefore we cannot issue a visa for this passport,” Anne Ostman, a Danish consular officer told the applicant, according to the screenshot.
“We do not know how long it takes for this new passport to be approved. We can keep an application open in our visa system for 15 days… we will inform VFS in Kampala not accept applications with the new passport for the time being.”
At the start of December 2018 Uganda’s Internal Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odong received the first batch of 24,000 electronic passports as officials prepared to issue them at the beginning of this year.
However, as government started releasing the passports, a section of legislators and activists took to court to demand halting of the process since it called for phasing out of the current machine-readable passports.
Just a few weeks ago, city lawyer Michael Aboneka together with Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG) petitioned the court, challenging the process of recalling all Ugandan passports without enacting an enabling law to guide the process.
The Complainants contend that by recalling Ugandan passports by 2021 regardless of their expiry date, the ministry’s is acting in breach of contract with the people.
“That the same ministry has not sensitized the Ugandan citizens on the new venture leaving them to the mercy of God. That there is, therefore, no clear law under which the ministry is proceeding to recall Ugandan passports and issue out the East African passports to Ugandan citizens,” reads the complaint.
Through its lawyers of Thomas and Michael Company Advocates, the activists are seeking for orders to restrain the Ministry of Internal Affairs from recalling Ugandan passports and replacing them with East African passports without legal basis in the Ugandan domain.
“Under the rule of law, the government is accountable to Ugandans, should be transparent and whatever it does should be in line with aspirations of the people,” the parties’ lawyer, Gawaya Tegule told High Court registrar Sarah Langa on Monday.
“There is no law under which government is proceeding to issue East African passports.”
The Ugandan government through the Attorney General, however, told the court that issuance of an interim order will be an abuse of court process since the case has been overtaken by events.
“Government started receiving applications in December last year and some applicants have already got and are using their international East African passports,” Allan Mukama, who represented the Attorney General told court.
He argued that halting a process which has already kicked off will be a wastage of the taxpayers’ money by court.
According to the Attorney General’s lawyer, issuance of the International East African passports is in compliance with a directive by the East African Council of Ministers for all regional countries to have East African passports by January 2018.
This was the second case brought against the Ugandan government challenging the legality of process of issuing electronic passports.
In December last year, government jointly with the secretary general of the East African Community (EAC) were dragged to East African Court of Justice challenging the move to charge its citizens Shs250,000 to acquire a new EAC E-passport.
Mr Norman Tumuhimbise, Mr Arnold Musoke and a nongovernmental organization labelled ‘Youth Line Forum Ltd’, filed the case claiming that the period given to the Ugandan citizens to switch to international EAC ePassports, is not sufficient and exclusionary to both Ugandans living both within and abroad contrary to the principals of equality, accountability and the rule of law.
They contend that Uganda’s charge for the ordinary international EAC E-passports makes it one of the most expensive in the region compared to Kenya’s and Tanzania who are charging for the same at Ksh4,550 (over Shs160000) and Tsh50,000 (Shs 800000) respectively.
The ordinary e-passports cost Shs250,000, 400,000 shillings is charged for those held by government officials and Shs500,000 for diplomatic ones.
For those who want express e-passports (in a period of two weeks), they part with 500,000 shillings.
Speaking to officials in the Foreign Affairs ministry, ChimpReports was told that the Internal Affairs ministry started issuing passports without liaising with it.