Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | In the face of objections from human rights advocates regarding privacy concerns, President Yoweri Museveni has directed the ministries of Works and Transport and of Security to speedy rollout the digital number plates project, dismissing calls for its suspension.
President Museveni contends that, akin to surveillance cameras, digital number plates will prove instrumental in the fight against crime. During a ceremony at Kabalye Police Training School in Masindi district, where 2,717 probational police constables, special police constables, and immigration officers were passing out, Museveni expressed his firm stance on the adoption of electronic number plates.
“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,” declared Museveni.
Highlighting the potential benefits for crime investigations, particularly in combating terrorism, Mr. Museveni emphasized the comprehensive means and assets at the disposal of the security forces. He asserted the government’s commitment to eliminating terrorists responsible for violence in Congo, stating, “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.”
Despite the President’s endorsement, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights advocacy organization, called for a suspension of the digital number plates rollout, drawing parallels with the misuse of surveillance cameras to target political opponents. Oryem Nyeko, a researcher at HRW, argued that Uganda’s new transport surveillance system amounts to unchecked mass surveillance, undermining the privacy rights of millions of citizens.
“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.
The digital number plates initiative, launched at the beginning of the month, initially targeted government-owned vehicles.
Facilitated through a 10-year agreement with a Russian company, the project involves installing digital tracking chips in all registered automobile number plates in the country under the Intelligent Transport Management Systems program (ITMS).