29 May 2014

Uganda: Myths, Cults Pull Back ID Project

Photo: Uganda Govt
Myths and cults hamper Uganda's registration of national identity cards.

Shadowy religious sects have been accused of undermining the national ID registration exercise by claiming it is satanic.

Pamela Ankunda, the communications manager at the ministry of Internal Affairs, told The Observer on Monday that the leader of one such cult named 666 has refused his members to register.

"We have been receiving so many reports from different people who have refused to register," she said.

"This particular cult quotes the [book of] Revelation in the Bible, that some people will come and give you a number which is a mark of the beast," Ankunda told The Observer.

This cult has followers in both Busoga sub-region and western Uganda, Ankunda said. She further revealed that another Muslim extremist group had refused its members to register because they fear being photographed.

"They said that we want to take their photos and show them to [American President] Barack Obama that they are terrorists," Ankunda said.

Another religious cult, Faith of Unity, founded by 83-year-old self-professed god, Omukama Ruhanga Owobusobozi Bisaka, initially refused followers to register because their leader had not given them the go-ahead. The cult is based at Kapyemi hill in Kibaale district. Owobusobozi has tens of thousands of followers who call themselves Abaikiriza.

"We had to go and engage him and convince him that this is a good project which will benefit all Ugandans. He has now understood and has asked his followers to get on board and register," Ankunda said.

The Observer also learnt that Sabanyala, the cultural leader of the Banyala, had refused his people to enrol for the national IDs until his people are recognised and mentioned on the registration form as a tribe and not just a clan in Buganda. There is also controversy regarding how to handle women who wear veils on their heads and others who cover the whole body, including the face.

"When a woman comes with a veil, we ask her to display her ears but she can stay with the head veil. We must see the face and the eyes. For those strict Muslim women who do not want to remove the veil which covers the face, we have engaged their leaders so that they can talk to them without appearing to be interfering with their religious beliefs. We provided a pictorial guide to take pictures of these people," said Paul Bukenya, the assistant communications manager for the national ID project.

For the disabled there are challenges too. Some features are not available to be captured, for example a person without limbs or hands to give a finger print. Bukenya said such people can state their disability on the registration form and it will be reflected in their data base.

Bukenya says most of the challenges were experienced during the first two weeks.

"We have reached out to them and sensitised them on the importance of the national ID, and now they are starting to appreciate the exercise," he said.

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