The making of a surveillance juggernaut in Kenya

Kenya will by the end of this year have the most robust surveillance network in the country’s history that will take its spying machinery to a whole new level.

In the right hands, the new system will be a powerful weapon for crime busters, but a dangerous arsenal if accessed by the wrong hands.

With a click of the button, a law enforcement officer will have everything they need about you.

The officer will not need the Registrar of Births to know where and when you were born or see your birth certificate.

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It will be an easy tell if you are carrying fake identification documents or not. The officer will in a heartbeat know if you have any criminal record. They will not have trouble separating between those on the government watch lists and good citizens going about their daily activities.

With the help of databases from other government agencies such as universities, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the company registry that are now going digital, they will easily know the university you went to, the status of your driving licence, foreigner certificates, work permits and the validity of your travel documents. 

Big brother will be complemented by other government initiatives already under way such as the issuance of smart driving licences and digital number plates, digital passports and the Integrated Population Registration System (IPRS). 

They will not need to go through the painful verification process at the Immigration Department to establish your nationality, country of origin or your passport number.

For citizens, the Huduma Namba will do what the current national identity card has failed to do in lifting the veil on just who you are and preserving the integrity of citizenship.

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Single click

For foreigners, that single click will pull up their alien identification and whether or not they are in the country legally or if their papers are valid. If a refugee, it will capture your asylum status. Unlike the past where different agencies had mini databases of incomplete information, an intelligence officer will now be properly armed with all the relevant information held by these agencies to fight crime and even prevent it before it happens.

A tax officer with access to this system will not just see these personal details, using the Personal Identification Number (PIN), they will also link them to your tax records, residential address, your companies, bank accounts and basically anything financial in your world.

With your mobile number, an intelligence officer will be well armed as they track your movements and your contacts.

The new age big brother will benefit a great deal from the master database the government is building, which will ride on the digital registration, census information and multi-agency data that will be linked to the system.

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The government’s spying juggernaut has already stretched its tentacles deep into the financial sector, pushing commercial banks to actively snoop on accounts of millions of Kenyans.

Banks are collecting tonnes of data and sharing with law enforcers to fight financial related crimes, among them terrorism and money laundering.

Mobile companies have also not been left out -- they are now required to put in place mechanisms to flag suspicious activities on their networks to authorities.  

After counting its population, the Jubilee administration is planning a digital registration of all Kenyans.

“To enhance the progress made by the IPRS, we will complete a central master population database, which will be the authentic ‘single source of truth’ on personal identity in Kenya,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said when he announced the biometric registration plans.

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The system, to be known as the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), is expected to produce a central master population database that will be the “single source of truth for all Kenyans”.

The system will consolidate population registration information into a single database for ease of verification by both government and private bodies.

Registrar of BirthsKRAIPRSHuduma NambaPresident Uhuru KenyattaNIIMSSurveilance