UCC Bans Vending of Simcards, Police to Effect Arrests Immediately

Communications regulator, generic UCC has Friday prohibited the vending of simcards along the streets and other non-authorized places following an earlier directive this week to switch off all unregistered simcards.

The directive serves to curb insecurity that has been exacerbated by the increasing rates of criminal activities that are executed using mobile phones.

All vendors selling simcards will be arrested with immediate effect according to Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Emilian Kayima.

The decision to ban the unregulated sale was derived at in a meeting convened by UCC together with police and all telecom service providers. The meeting was attended by UCC Execitive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, about it the Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura and the Commissioner of Police in charge of criminal investigations, AIGP Grace Akulo.

“We have held a meeting with both police and telecom operators and agreed that there will be no more street vending of simcards. Simcards are to be sold only in gazetted custom service centres,” Eng. Mutabazi told journalists in a joint communique shortly after the meeting.

Telecom operators have been tasked to reconcile their database with that of the National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) to establish whether the identities registered on simcards correspond with those in the National ID database.

“Refugees in Uganda who need to own simcards will require approval and an official document from the Office of the Prime Minister before they can access a simcard,” Eng. Mutabazi added.

Forthwith, the National ID and national passport will be the only validated documents for any individual to have their simcard registered. Previously, other documents such as; a letter from Local Council (L.C) leaders, work and students I.Ds qualified as eligible requirements.


Kayima told journalists that; “The police is going to write a circular and communicate to all our territorial commanders to enforce this resolution immediately, most likely tomorrow.”

According to Kayima, unregistered simcards are a big security threat and facilitates terror activities, organized and transnational crime among others.

ChimpReports spoke to telecom service providers MTN Uganda and Airtel to understand what they make of this new development and what implications it will have on their operations.

“We are pleased with the decision taken by UCC. We very much believe that the country needs to be secure in regards to who accesses communication services,” said Anwar Soussa the Managing Director Airtel Uganda.

Regarding the reconciling their database with NIRA, Soussa said that Airtel has the system capacity to start the process but it will depend on how ready NIRA is to give them access to integrate the data.

He said the process could take about 6 months given the bulk of users that are on the Airtel network.

He however noted that the ban on simcard vending will “slow down our growth by relatively 30% and also affect affect investments in the different parts of the country. But at this point, security is important and we can’t put a dollar value to safety”.

Since Tuesday’s directive, Airtel has deregistered ‘suspicious’ simcards that Soussa said have been inactive for long.

UCC Execitive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi and Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Emilian Kayima speak to the press after the meeting on Friday.
UCC Execitive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi and Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Emilian Kayima speak to the press after the meeting on Friday.

MTN Uganda CEO Win Vanhelleputte also admitted that the prohibition of vending simcards will affect MTN’s new customers.

On the users that registered without the National ID, he said; “It’s only after we have met with NIRA and interracted with their database that we shall identify users who registered without the National ID and see what to do.”

He was however confident that MTN is not worried about the magnitude of unregistered simcards on their network following the de-registration of about 3 million unregistered cards in December 2015.

Nevertheless, a lot more needs to be done to deal with tracking of individuals who use mobile phones to commit crimes in Uganda.

Many questions still need to be answered including; what happens to rightfully registered cards whose owners die, people whose phones are stolen and opt for new numbers and what will be done to the many cards that were registered prior to the National ID.


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