Kenyan rights groups warn digital ID program repeating past mistakes
The Kenyan Human Rights Commission is leading a group of ten civil society groups in responding to the country’s digital ID launch by calling for a stronger legislative basis, “meaningful public participation,” and universal access to identity documents for all people in Kenya.
Maisha Namba is set to launch on September 29, and the groups warn the public in a statement and State Department for Immigration and Citizen Services Permanent Secretary Julius Bitok in a letter that it could repeat the “similarly hurried and flawed implementation of Huduma Namba.” Most of the groups have issued a similar warning before.
Co-signatories to the statement also include Nubian Rights Forum, Namati Kenya, Access Now and Haki Na Sheria Initiative.
The groups warn of the possibility of discrimination and the erosion of privacy given what they consider to be a lack of the steps needed to reform and upgrade the national identification system.
The rollout of the new digital ID has been opaque, public engagement lacking and procedural and legal safeguards absent.
A meeting was held between Bitok and civil society organizations in February of this year, at which he made commitments the groups say have not been upheld to ensure transparency, public participation and accountability. In fact, they say, no public participation forum has been established to collect feedback from the Kenyan public. No data protection impact assessment has been published, no public awareness measures taken, and no safeguards enacted, the signatories argue.
The groups call for 8 changes, from establishing a legal framework for the digital ID consistent with the Constitution and the High Court ruling to the “Abolishment of ID vetting for all Kenyans.”