Last month, the Kenya Parliament passed a concerning amendment to the country’s national identifier law as we had earlier indicated here.
Per Alice Munyua, The rebranded, National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) now requires all Kenyans, immigrants, and refugees to turn over their DNA, GPS coordinates of their residential address, retina scans, iris pattern, voice waves, and earlobe geometry before being issued critical identification documents.
NIIMS will consolidate information contained in other government agency databases and generate a unique identification number known as Huduma Namba.
The government started testing the plan to register nearly 50 million Kenyans for the digital database on Monday.
Some of the counties in the pilot project include Kisii, Kisumu, Wajir Nairobi, Uasin Gishu, Kajiado, Baringo, Marsabit, Embu, Makueni, Busia, Nyandarua, Kiambu, Kilifi and Tana River,
Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said 31,500 kits have been distributed in readiness for the mass rollout covering the country’s 8,500 sub-locations next month.
Before these amendments, in order to issue the National ID Card (ID), the government only required name, date and place of birth, place of residence, and postal address.
The key concern with the huduma number which most Kenyans are asking is why we need yet another unique identifier in addition to all the information that the government already has. The concern from a human rights perspective is that the scope of personally identifiable data sought by the Government is beyond what would be deemed necessary and thus contrary to the data protection principle of data minimisation. From a constitutional perspective, the issue is that there was no public participation as required per law in introducing the clause through the Statutes Miscellaneous Act.
Since the announcement of the roll out of the Huduma Number, we have heard of two cases filed to stop the process.
One by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) in whose court papers, notes that the law is vague on what constitutes ‘personal information’ to be surrendered to the State. Further, KHRC says that this is against the Constitution-guaranteed right not to have information related to their families or private affairs unnecessarily required.
The second, the Nubian Rights Forum who filed a petition in the High Court of Kenya to challenge the constitutionality of NIIMS and the amendments that created it.
Per the Nubian Rights Forum, they are concerned that the population register was established through a miscellaneous amendments bill (rather than through a dedicated piece of legislation) and without adequate public participation in the process.’
Further, ‘Kenya also lacks an adequate legal framework for data privacy and protection, which is an essential foundation for a database that will include personal and biometric details on all Kenyans.’