Parliament has queried the move by government to phase out the current passports and replace them with the international East African e-Passport.
This followed debate on a statement tabled by Internal Affairs Minister, Obiga Kania on the proposed introduction of the international East African e-Passport.
In his statement, Kania noted that during the 17th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State held in March 2016, Presidents launched the new EAC e-Passport and directed that issuance should take effect by 1st January 2017 followed by a phased suspension of the readable East African and National Passports in a period of two years.
He explained that government has already signed a supply contract to provide a Turnkey solution for an e-Passport System/infrastructure, supply of blank e-Passport booklets and construction of a fully furnished Personalization Centre at the internal Affairs Ministry Headquarters.
Kania also said the project also includes a fit for purpose rehabilitation and equipping of three Regional Centers in Mbarara, Mbale and Gulu and missions in Washington, London, Pretoria, Beijing, New Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Paris.
He said that by mid-2018, more than 150 countries had migrated to this type of technology, saying that the e-Passports are more superior and have microchips, which store a digital photo as well as identification data normally on the bio data page of the paper passport.
He also said the e-passports are harder to forge and that digital fingerprints can be stored on the biometric passport to prevent unauthorized usage or scanning of data. Kania said that after January 9th 2021, only the international East African e-Passport shall be valid for travel, saying the current East African and National Machine-Readable Passports shall cease to be valid Travel Documents for Ugandan citizens.
The proposed new e-passports will cost Shillings 250,000 (48 pages) to 300,000 (64 pages) for ordinary passports, Shillings 500,000 for Diplomatic passports, Shillings 400,000 for Service Passports, Shillings 350,000 for Diaspora Ordinary Passport and an additional cost of Shillings 150,000 for express services.
The Minister’s statement attracted a heated debate from legislators. The Bunya East MP, Waira Kyewalabye Majegere questioned the legal position of the new passport. The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga also asked why government had chosen the path of EAC passports yet it is not a sovereign state and as to whether there had been any amendment to the protocol establishing the East African Community to provide for the passport.
Kania said that each country is issuing the passports under their own domestic laws and that the only difference is that the EAC Summit agreed that each of the passports carry a chip with minimum data of an individual.
The Mitooma Woman MP, Jovah Kamateeka rejected the minister’s explanation.
Kadaga then directed that Kania to appear before Parliament on Tuesday next week with legal documents backing the passport issuance. It came after the Minister requested for more time to appear before Parliament and explain the basis of the passport.