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Uganda Communications Commission urged to not switch off SIM cards

A close-up shot of a SIM card
A close-up shot of a SIM card

Flickr/Warrenski

Uganda's telecommunication regulatory body, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) says it is not responsible for switching off unregistered SIM cards. On August 29 2013, the UCC's lawyer, Paul Kuteesa, told the court that the duty of switching off unregistered SIM cards lies instead with telecommunication service providers.

“The 1st Respondent (UCC) does not have the mandate to register or switch off SIM cards under the law,” Kuteesa of Kampala Associated Advocates submitted before Justice Yasin Nyanzi at the Kampala High Court Civil Division.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda and Legal Brains Trust (LBT) are seeking a temporary injunction that restrains the UCC from switching off unregistered SIM cards until the main case filed by the duo is heard.

This position was reiterated by the Attorney General's representative Gerald Batanda, who also told court that such responsibilities lie with the telecommunication service providers. “The order sought is mute, it ought to be given against the service providers,” Batanda told court on August 29.

Arguing on behalf of HRNJ-Uganda and LBT, Isaac Kimaze said that if the UCC proceeds to switch of unregistered SIM cards on 31 August as planned, subscribers would suffer “irreparable harm that cannot be duly compensated through the award of damages”.

In February 2013, HRNJ-Uganda and Legal Brains Trust sued UCC over the failure to effectively supervise the SIM card registration process. Both organizations argue that the process is marred with illegalities, irregularities and anomalies that have serious consequences if not addressed.

Earlier in the week, the UCC Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabaazi told the press that there will be no further extension of the switch off deadline.

Telecom companies are also sending out messages to their customers that their SIM cards will be cut by UCC if they do not register them before 31st August.

Justice Yasin Nyanzi is to rule over the matter on Friday 30th at 3:30PM.

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