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Uganda: Cabinet, Parliament go parallel on amendment of Registration of Persons Act ahead of 2021 polls

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The Deputy Attorney General, Jackson Kafuuzi has said that there is no need to amend Section 36 of the Registration of Persons Act, 2015 which requires every person who intends to change their name to use a deed poll and the gazette.

A deed poll is a legal document used to change or adopt a name, required to be published in the National Gazette and eventually registered with the National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA).

This follows a concern earlier raised by MPs over the Electoral Commission’s move not to nominate political aspirants whose names on their national identity cards defer from their academic transcripts.

Legislators specifically requested government to give special consideration to women who had adopted their husband’s names with a legally acknowledged marriage.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, to that effect, directed that married women with political aspirations be exempted from using a deed poll as required in Section 36.

However, Cabinet opposed the proposal arguing that the process of registration of new names by NIRA is immediate once the applicant intending to change has presented their deed poll and the copy of the gazette in which the change of name is published.

Kafuuzi addressing House on the issue during plenary on Tuesday 6, 2020 noted that the aforementioned practice is internationally recognised and government endorses that it is maintained.

He added, “NIRA is willing to accord political aspirants priority by issuing them a letter of change of names to any entity including the Electoral Commission to access any services.”

Kafuuzi reminded the MPs that the use of Statutory Declarations as proof of change of names was previously contested in the Supreme Court, which stood in favour of the contestation, further urging married women to heed to Section 36 of the above Act.

He added that the government intends to come back to Parliament with a different regulation on the matter.

In response, Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality) said that Section 36 which requires women to apply for a change of name when they get married and adopt their husbands’ names was in effect not recognising the convectional practice especially in the commonwealth states.

“A new regulation cannot cure that aspect of the Section. We should give special consideration to the women especially if they have evidence or proof of marriage,” Basalirwa added.

NRM Woman MP of Adjumani district, Jesca Ababiku, said that the Attorney General remained unclear in his submission on the issue by failing to offer an extension of time for those willing to go through that process.

“We want government to help women in this predicament because there are only two days left seeing that nomination of women district representatives commences next week and the deadline of local council nominations passed,” Ababiku added.

She also moved a vote of no confidence in the decentralisation of NIRA processes because people have to travel to Kampala to apply and acquire a new national identity card from NIRA head office.

Kafuuzi, in his response said that the Electoral Commission had already received applications for local council nominations and plans for district women representatives were already underway posing a necessity for further logistical support and distortion in the Electoral Commission cycle.

Speaker Kadaga, however, said that it was unacceptable for the government to keep coming up with excuses of no funding or time for issues attached to women.

“Several times we see budget supplements being rushed and less important things being pushed and passed hurriedly; as the Attorney General you should find ways of providing for funding on this matter because it is a given,” she said.

Kadaga further demanded that the government gives an extension of 14 days for the nomination of both contending councillors and district women representatives to ably complete the process of name change.

The Attorney General committed to consult with the Electoral Commission on Wednesday, 7 October 2020 and report back to the House.

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