Kenyan MPs skeptical of voter biometric system

September 7, 2012 - 

Kenya is contemplating the use of biometrics in its next elections. However, many members of parliament have raised fears about the handling biometric data. has previously reported about problems plaguing Kenya’s electoral biometric contract and about the country’s prime minister calling for a new procurement process for the contract.

Now Kenyan MPs are concerned about how biometric data will be used and secured.

Harun Mwau, MP for Kilome, feels that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), is likely to share biometric information with foreign agencies.

Other lawmakers do not understand why biometric data is not restricted just to thumbprints. According to many MPs, the IEBC is intent on recording voter’s eye retina profiles, facial characteristics and hand geometry. Zakayo Cheruiyot, MP for Kuresoi, fears such information might be misused.

MPs such as Danson Mungatana, who represents Garsen, are also concerned about how third parties from outside of the country might use the information.

Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa attempted to assure opposition lawmakers that biometric data would not leave Kenya and that it would be used by the IEBC solely for elections. He noted that a Canadian firm would only be supplying the hardware but all the biometric information captured and stored would be held and managed by the IEBC.

A government spokesperson explained that: “Biometrics are just to identify voters upon arriving at the polling station. The issue of usage of the system to rig elections does not arise. The whole idea is for accurate identification of the voter. It is not intended to be used to the disadvantage of a Kenyan.”

While many on the government benches seem committed to biometrics in public statements, they have been opposed to the contract procurement process undertaken by the IEBC.

Do you think Kenya delay using biometrics in its next round of elections?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.