Press Release: ‘Chased Away and Left to Die’: New human rights report finds that Uganda’s national digital ID system leads to mass exclusion
Source: Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and Unwanted Witness
(New York and Kampala June 8, 2021)—Uganda’s national digital ID system, a government showpiece that is of major importance for how individuals in Uganda access their social rights, leads to mass exclusion. This is the key finding in a new report titled Chased Away and Left to Die, published today by a collective of human rights organizations. The report is the outcome of 7 months of in-depth interviews with a multitude of victims, health workers, welfare workers, government officials and other experts on the national ID, referred to by Ugandans as Ndaga Muntu.
The report argues that the Ugandan government has sacrificed the potential of digital ID for social inclusion and the realization of human rights at the altar of national security. “Ndaga Muntu is primarily a national security weapon built with the help of Uganda’s powerful military and not the ‘unrivaled success’ that the World Bank and others have claimed it is,” said Christiaan van Veen, one of the authors of the report and based at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law.
Obtaining a national digital ID is described as “a nightmare” in the report. Based on official sources, the report estimates that as many as one third (33%) of Uganda’s adult population has not yet received a National Identity Card (NIC), a number that may even be rising. Many others in the country have errors on their card or are unable to replace lost or stolen IDs.
Since Ndaga Muntu is mandatory to access health care, social benefits, to vote, get a bank account, obtain a mobile phone or travel, the national ID has become a critical gateway to access these human rights. As one individual in Nebbi in Northern Uganda, put it succinctly in the report: “Ndaga Muntu is like a key to my door; without it, I can’t enter.” This can literally mean the difference between life and death. A woman in Amudat, in Northern Uganda, described the consequences of not having the national ID for access to health care: “Without an ID […] no treatment. Many people fall sick and stay home and die.”
The report urges the Ugandan government to immediately stop requiring the national digital ID to access social rights. “Government has to go back to the drawing table and rethink the use of Ndaga Muntu,” said Angella Nabwowe of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, “especially when it comes to tagging it to service delivery, because many people are being left out.”