March 9—The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has ordered telecom companies to recall all SIM cards that are held in stock by street vendors and agents in a move to intended to limit unscrupulous people from using multiple cards and card switching to commit crimes.
UCC has banned the sale of SIM cards through hawkers, street vendors or agents; and any other establishment that are not licensed by the Kampala Capital City Authority or other municipal town authorities.
Addressing a news conference at the Commission offices on the outskirts of Kampala UCC Executive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi said the new guidelines will take precedence over public inconvenience.
“Sim cards are not more important than people’s lives. This business is causing deaths. We must first consider the lives before we consider the lines,” he said.
Uganda is the only country on this planet that allows sim cards to be sold by vendors. You don’t see this in other counties.”
UCC has been directed by the Ministry of Information and ICT to investigate telecom companies that might have provided loopholes exploited by criminals in the recent spate of murders and kidnaps around the country.
Telecoms have already started implementing the new measures, the companies are required to acquire and install card readers at all their service centres that will be used to validate the information on National IDs of people coming to register for new cards.
The Commission now requires anybody registering for a new SIM card or replacing one to come with his or her original national ID. The installed card readers will be able to instantly verify the ID information against the national database maintained by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), which is hosted by UCC.
Mobile telecom operators have also been ordered to immediately recall and deactivate all pre-activated and or pre-registered SIM cards that are currently in stock. Meanwhile for people whose ID information might have been used to register other SIM cards, these will be able to cross-check about these lines using the short code 197.
Mutabazi said operators will forthwith be liable for any violation of Commission directives by their staff or agents whether such violation is by omission, commission or otherwise.