Despite protestations from human rights activists to suspend the operationalization of digital number plates over privacy concerns, President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the ministries of Works and Transport and of Security to quickly roll out the project.
Museveni argues that just like cameras, digital number plates will be handy in combating crime.
“I’m now insisting on the electronic number plates. Please, I want my number plates. Don’t delay my number plates. I don’t want these aimless number plates. I want intelligent number plates for the vehicles,” Museveni said while presiding over the pass out of 2,717 probational police constables, special police constables and immigration officers at Kabalye Police Training School in Masindi district.
Museveni noted that the electronic number plates will significantly help in investigations of crimes especially terrorism, now that the force is using all the comprehensive means and assets needed for the job.
“You will see these terrorists who have been killing people from Congo. We are going to finish them. I have told them; we’re going to kill all of them. We have everything needed,” Museveni said.
This week, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global organization that advocates for human rights called on Uganda to halt the rolling out of digital number plates. It argued that just like the cameras have been used to target political opponents, the digital number plates are most likely going to be used for the same purposes.
“Uganda’s new transport surveillance system amounts to unchecked mass surveillance of all vehicles at all times, undermining the right to privacy for millions of Ugandans. The government should focus on protecting its citizens’ rights instead of abusing them,” said Oryem Nyeko Uganda researcher at HRW.
The digital number plates were launched at the beginning of this month with the first phase targeting government-owned vehicles. Through the ministries of Works and Security, the government agreed to a 10-year deal with the Russian company to install digital tracking chips in all automobile number plates registered in the country, under the Intelligent Transport Management Systems program (ITMS).