2 weeks ago, I made my way to St. Mbagga Tuzinde church my polling center for elections which is located in Kiwatule a residential suburb on the outskirts of Kampala city. Given my hectic work schedule and the long queues, I had not been able to register myself for my national I.D for both the first and second sessions. I got to the church at 9.45 am ready to wait for a maximum of 2 hours to get this sorted out finally so that I could head to work in the afternoon.
I was greeted with stares as I walked into the children’s church and I sat down at the end of the snake-like line near the door before I asked my neighbor for assistance.
Me: “Good morning, is this the line for registration for the national I.D?”
Lady: “Good morning, no this is the line for pick up. Go to the other line.”
I thanked her before I got up and went to the back of another even longer line and took a seat. After about 30 minutes of no movement and dead silence so I inquired from my new neighbor what was going on.
Me: “Is there National I.D registration going on today?”
Neighbor: “Yes, this is the line.”
Me: “So why isn’t anyone moving?”
Neighbor: “I don’t know because it has been this way from 8.40 am when I arrived.”
I sat quietly for a while and watched the gentleman who was supposed to be registering us pace back and forth, go outside and then come back inside taking one call after another. Then he walked out and did not come back until an hour later. In the meantime, the gentleman issuing I.D’s from earlier registration processes’ and his supervisor realized that there was no activity and people were grumbling so they came to take a look.
On a brief examination of the scanner, I realized that this was the reason why the registrar had left, the scanner was not working. They tried replacing the old scanner with one from the issuing I.D section and it worked however, the gentleman needed to use his scanner as well for verification.
The registrar finally returned almost an hour later with a new printer and this is all he had to say,
Registrar: “This machine has died.”
Me: “What does he mean, the machine has died?”
Registrar: “You know these machines, they are old. These government people bought old ones.”
When he said this I finally pieced it all together, he had gone off to get a new scanner since this old one was not working. All I wondered was why the supervisor or he himself had not informed us. It took him 20 minutes to hook up the machine and get the system working again but by this time over half of the 100 people waiting I line had left for work, home or to do more pressing things.
I waited another 20 minutes before our queue began moving and as people continued to trickle in they began to cut into the line. So with much irritation, I informed the people in front of me to move forward so that the line could keep moving only to hear the registrar say,
“Abakazi mugenda mu naze engalo, nanti mu tadde buzigo mu ngalo.”
I thought to myself, so this man thinks that everyone here understands Luganda huh and why isn’t he audible enough given the number of people waiting in line. Thanks to his chatty character, he did indeed repeat himself.
Registrar: “Women, if you know you put Vaseline on your hands in the morning, go and wash them. If you get here and the system can’t see your finger prints I will send you to the back of the line.”
I smiled and wondered how this system has eyes everywhere like Jack Bauer who can see you even through a closed Mahogany door. Anyway, the registrar worked on about 15 people between 10.40 am – 3.00 pm before the all-seeing system went haywire once more. But keep in mind that the 15 people he worked on were those that he registered in his book the previous day, now no one had informed us of this protocol. We sat for another hour waiting for it to come back on line so that our full day of sacrifice to register would not have been in vain.
Registrar: “Now, you see old machines. The system has gone off again, you see what happens when you buy old things? ”
However, we were fortunate that this hiccup was the final straw for many who burst out of the church in protest and headed home as he continued to encourage them to leave.
Registrar: “The machine has died again, if you feel you do not have time you can go home and come back tomorrow.”
When about 30 people left he collected our forms and reviewed them to make sure we had filled in all the relevant information as he waited for the system to get back on line and by now due to perseverance and no bathroom breaks I was now in position 8 in the queue. I was so happy I did not have breakfast that morning otherwise,….that’s a story for another day.
The system came back on line but in the midst of waiting, 1 young lady came and sat down next to me even though the forms had already been collected and our names had been registered in the book that had now become a holy grail of sorts. When the registrar saw that the young lady did not leave even when everyone else did, he said,
Registrar: “For those of you who have just come, I suggest you come back tomorrow. I will not be able to work on you. If I have not collected your form go home.”
We all giggled because we knew exactly who he was talking about but the lady did not budge and actually pulled out a novel to read as she waited. At about 4.45 pm, the gentleman from the issuing section realized that her form had not been collected and yet she seemed to be a familiar face.
I.D Issuing Officer: “Madam, were you here yesterday?”
Young lady: “Yes, and you made me not register. The system was down and you told us to leave so when it came back on line 10 minutes after I left, a few people were registered.”
I.D Issuing Officer: “Oh sorry,” he said and he took her form and placed it on the registrar’s table as he whispered in his ear.
Next thing we knew, after number 4 was worked on she was being called to register in the book and was immediately processed. The 16 of us who were waiting were uncomfortable about this but nothing prepared me for this. Her fingers prints were not reflected on the system and even though the registrar had just sent away a gentleman to the back of the line for not knowing his village and his fingers prints not being reflected, he wiped the scanner for her. The lady next to me went into a rage.
New Neighbor: “So you sent away the other gentleman, but you are wiping for her the machine. Hhhhmm why don’t you remain consistent – send her to wash her hands like you sent all the women here. Afterwards, let her also go to the back of the line.”
Registrar: “I am trying to show mercy but because you are making so much noise I will not work on you today.”
We all laughed and audibly grumbled but only 10 minutes later the registrar called her name and handed her form over and she left without being registered. I eventually got registered at 5:45 pm, 8 hours later after wasting a full work day. That was my experience registering for my national I.D, now let’s hope I actually get it.