Kenyans are questioning the legality of the Huduma Namba initiative recently launched by Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, with a section going to court to stop its implementation. Some wananchi are concerned that the private data being asked for is collated and stored by a private commercial enterprise, MasterCard. There are also concerns that the government is using the initiative for the benefit of private entreprises at the expense of mwananchi, with the government insisting that those who would not have Huduma Namba will not access ‘government services’. Below is a list of some concerns raised mostly on the social media platforms:
Kenya Human Rights Commission concerns
KHRC went to court to file a petition stopping the implementation of the Huduma Namba or NIIMS on the following grounds.
- The NIIMS system inherits existing obstacles in registration and identification processes and it risks excluding Kenyans especially from border and pastoral communities.
- Privacy and Data Protection concerns – Kenya does not have a policy and legal framework for privacy and data protection. If all the information is going to be centralized, there is need for guarantee of protection of the very sensitive information that is going to be harvested.
- NIIMS is surrounded by the risk and fear of bad use or abuse of digital database
- Legal gap of conclusive proof of citizenship puts most Kenyans especially from border counties and pastoral communities at risk of statelessness.
- NIIMS was sneaked hurriedly and passed through a Miscellaneous Amendment, effectively denying citizens an opportunity to participate. There is scanty information about the operations of the system and its effect on he lives of Kenyans.
- The NIIMS database will contain one’s DNA and biometric information and the GPS location of all Kenyans.
The Nubian Rights Forum
The Nubian Rights Forum has also lodged a petition in court with the following concerns.
- Concerned that the population register was established through a miscellaneous amendments bill rather than through a dedicated piece of legislation.
- Inadequate public participation in the whole process.
- Lack of a legal framework in Kenya for data privacy and protection, since the database contains personal and biometric details of Kenyans.
Many Kenyans are also concerned that the government is getting its priorities upside down as there are emergency issues to be dealt with rather than the addition of registration documents. The documents Kenyans have so far for access to public services are : Birth certificate, ID, NSSF card, NHIF card, Driving License, Passport.
The lack of adequate information on the platforms on which Huduma Namba runs as well as the beneficiaries and cost is also a source of concern.
Government’s response to issues raised
The government has responded to some of the issues raised with regards to the association of the Mastercard Inc in the Huduma Namba initiative. Through a statement on its twitter account, the Ministry of Interior says that the Mastercard initiative was a payment initiative by Huduma Centre, Mastercard and four banks, namely CBA, Equity, KCB, and DTB in 2016 to facilitate payment processes. However, the Huduma Namba is a totally different initiative and the cards to be used are not yet available to the public.
Evidently, there is a lot of misinformation and lack of adequate information surrounding the Huduma Namba initiative and it is only the government that can clear the air and answer citizens’ concerns.