Government To Roll Out Digital Car Number Plates In March This Year

Digital Number Plates Implementation Hangs In Balance As Top Manager Resigns

By Uganda Online Media

The government of Uganda is set to kick off the controversial digital surveillance car number plates in March this year.

According to a report filed by Daily Monitor, this will follow an agreement that was signed by the government of Uganda and Russian company, M/s Joint Stock Company Global Security and the first phase of the project dubbed the Intelligent Transport Management System (ITMS) digital monitoring and tracking system of motor vehicles and motorcycles in the country will cover all government vehicles. 

The second phase will involve making beacon-equipped plates to cover all new vehicles on the road and is expected to start on July 1 with new cars coming into the country, before being rolled out to cars already on the road.

Mr Bageya Waiswa, the Works Ministry permanent secretary has written to the two companies currently manufacturing car plates GM Tumpeco and Arnold Brooklyn and Company Ltd notifying them of the termination of their contracts within the next six months.

“The production and issuance of the new vehicle registration plates are scheduled to commence on July 1st, 2023,” Mr Waiswa wrote in two separate correspondences dated December 29,  2022, addressed to the two companies.

He further detailed that, under the ITMS project, the Russian firm will manufacture and fit all cars with plates embedded with beacons “so as to identify and trace them in real-time, especially when investigating a crime committed by rogue elements.”

The third phase of the project, Mr Waiswa told this newspaper yesterday, will cover new digital plates to replace all ordinary plates currently on the road.

The Works ministry has already issued new registration plate regulations that guide for an inbuilt sensor embedded in a registration plate to be synchronised with an electronic device installed in the motor vehicle. 

The device is capable of indicating the real-time location of the motor vehicle and detecting unauthorised removal.

The regulations exempt tracking chips from vehicles belonging to diplomatic missions, UN agencies, the presidential motorcade or any other special-purpose vehicle as the Works minister may prescribe.

Since mid-2021 when the government, through the ministries of Security and the Presidency, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with M/s Joint Stock Company Global Security, questions have incessantly popped up about the integrity of the project intended to fight high-profile crime.

Privacy experts have warned that the car-tracking system is not employed anywhere in countries that consider themselves democratic but Mr Waiswa yesterday emphasised that they have done “enough due diligence.”

“Whether it has been done elsewhere or not, we are doing something new here. You see things have changed nowadays that one doesn’t necessarily need to jump on the plane to do benchmarking; you can do it on your desktop,” Mr Waiswa said by telephone.

President Museveni first hinted at mounting tracking chips on all boda bodas and vehicles during his address to Parliament on insecurity in the country in June 2018. 

This was in the wake of the assassination of Arua Municipality MP, Ibrahim Abiriga who was shot dead while driving in his car. 

The assailants, who trailed him on motorcycles, remain at large.

The move was part of the President’s 12-point plan, including fingerprinting all guns and installation of CCTVs on streets, to curb high-profile crimes in the country.

The first batch of cameras was installed in June 2019. 

In the wake of the attempted assassination of the former Chief of Defence Forces Gen Katumba Wamala in June 2021, President Museveni directed the Security ministry to fast-track the vehicle tracking deal.

Additional Reporting By Daily Monitor

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