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Kenyans in Diaspora up in arms as some move to court to Stop Fresh Registration of SIM Cards

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Kenyans in the Diaspora are an unhappy lot over posts circulating on the social media asking them to re-register their Safaricom Sim Cards or lose their lines.

Most of those complaining took to social media to register their disapproval, basically  calling on the  relevant authorities to clarify the issue as they also wonder whether their personal  information will be safe.

“I think it is either a scam or someone is trying to use our information for ulterior motives. I smell a rotten rat here,” wrote Maggie Mochama on Twitter.

Why should we register twice and even if we have to, why are they requiring so much personal information, wondered Mwangi Moses Mugo on Facebook.

Late in March, a Kenyan residing in the UK has moved to court seeking to stop a directive by the Communication Authority of Kenya requiring mobile services operators to register their customers afresh.

Eliud Karanja Matindi, through a petition filed at the High Court in Nairobi, argues that the directive by the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) is illegal and unconstitutional.

In a petition certified as urgent by the High Court, Mr Matindi says the directive by CA requiring Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya to carry out fresh registration of all their mobile telephone subscribers, including subscribers who are already registered, is illegal.

He argues that the regulator has urged mobile services operators to ensure that their subscribers disclose all other telephone numbers registered under their names, including those registered with other mobile telephone service providers.

The activist said the directive might force the telcos to suspend the services of any of their subscribers who will not have registered their mobile telephone lines as required from April 15, with deactivation of service 90 days after such suspension, if still not registered.

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“As a precondition for this fresh registration, all natural persons must submit to have their photographs taken, processed and retained,” he said adding that the failure to meet the conditions will lead to the suspension followed by deactivation 90 days later.

The collection of photographic images is allegedly for security purposes as part of their know your customer process to safeguard their customers as well as for due diligence in accordance with Anti-Money Laundering purposes.

Mr Karanja wants the court to compel the telcos to delete and expunge from their records and systems photographs of persons who are registered mobile subscribers, collected during the registration process.

He further wants the High Court to quash the Kenya Information and Telecommunication Regulation 2014.

According to activist, the directive from the CA is unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void and any collection, processing and retention of photographs by mobile telephone service operators is unconstitutional.

Karanja has faulted the conduct of the Data Protection Commissioner, KNHR, National Gender and Equity Commission and Attorney General for failing to intervene to stop or oppose CA’s directive.

“The Directive from the 1st Respondent for the 1st and 2nd Respondents and the Interested Party to carry out fresh registration of their existing and already registered mobile telephone service subscribers is unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void,” he said in an affidavit.

Justice Hedwig Ong’udi certified the case as urgent and directed him to serve CA and the mobile telephone operators with the court documents within seven days. The case will be mentioned on April 6 for further directions.

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The activist wants the court to compel the mobile service operators to delete and expunge from their records and systems photos of mobile subscribers taken during the registration process. He is also seeking to have the Kenya Information and Telecommunication Regulation 2014 quashed.

On Thursday, he Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya  warned that mobile phone subscribers who fail to register their details with their respective telecommunication service providers by April 15 will face disconnection.

Director General Ezra Chiloba stated that the move is to enforce the SIM card registration regulations of 2015 and is aimed at combating cybercrime and fraud in the digital space.

Chiloba said the Communication Authority will not extend the ongoing SIM card registration deadline and urged unregistered mobile subscribers to do so in the remaining days.

He asked all mobile network operators to speed up the data cleanup exercise and said that no more time will be added upon the expiry of the grace period noting that unregistered sim cards have security implications.

“There would be no extension so those still dragging their feet should wake up to the reality and register with their respective telecom service providers or face permanent deactivation,” he said.

The CA DG said there would be no unregistered SIM cards on any of the telcom service providers that would be in operation beyond April 15.

“We want before the end of April all the networks to be cleaned up by deactivating all unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards from the networks,” said Chiloba.

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