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10 lobby groups call for the cancellation of Maisha Number cards

By Kevin Cheruiyot September 14th, 2023 2 min read

The government’s announcement of the imminent introduction of Maisha Number cards has been met with opposition from human rights groups in the country.

A total of ten lobby groups, which issued a joint statement on Thursday, said there are several critical issues that the government must first address before rolling out the National Digital Identity Cards.

The human rights organizations have called on the government to suspend the exercise and widen the consultation process to include all interested groups, including lobby groups, without haste.

The ten groups include Nubian Rights Forum, Namati Kenya, Center for Minority Development, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Defenders Coalition, Access Now, Katiba Institute, Haki Na Sheria Initiative, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, and Pastoralists Rights and Advocacy Network.

Also read: What you need to know about the newly launched Maisha number

“We are at a critical moment. A move to digital IDs is not a minor change but one that significantly changes how legal identification is administered in our country. As such, we need to get it right and improve access to nationality, data protection and individual’s privacy rather than erode it,” part of the statement read by Shafi Ali Hussein from Nubian Rights Forum says.

The groups have accused Immigration Principal Secretary Julius Bitok of failing to address the issue of discrimination and marginalisation of some communities in the country ahead of the exercise, despite assurances to the contrary at a meeting in February.

The issue of data protection has also been raised by lobby groups, who have threatened to go to court to challenge the Maisha number if the government fails to address the issue of data piracy.

“No data protection assessment has been made public, no public awareness has been conducted, and no safeguards have been put in place to ensure Kenyans who have struggled to obtain documentation can acquire a UPI or related government services,” Abdi Gedi from Pastoralists Rights and Advocacy Network said.

They are calling on the government to suspend the planned exercise, expected to be launched by President William Ruto on September 29, until their issues are addressed.

Mr Shafi said human rights groups will be forced to go to court to challenge the government as they did in the failed Huduma Namba cards during the last regime of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, where the issue of data protection and discrimination was petitioned.

Also read: Lobby group celebrate Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ association