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Phone users face six months in jail for unregistered SIM cards

By Lee Mwiti | January 7th 2017
Mobile phone in use. (Photo: Courtesy)

Mobile phone users now face up to six months in jail for buying a SIM card from unlicensed vendors.

This means buying a SIM card from a street vendor can have someone face a jail term of six months, or a Sh100,000 fine.

This is according to a number of directives that were published by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) yesterday.

“Pursuant to Section 27C of the Kenya communications Act,1998, members of the public are reminded not to use a SIM card that is not registered, not to buy a SIM card from a hawker, to insist that the vendor registers your particulars, and to provide a copy of an ID when registering a SIM card,” the notice signed by CAK Director General Francis Wangusi read in part.

“If you lose your SIM card report to the nearest police station as soon as possible and obtain an abstract,” it continued.

It further urges customers to report any change in particulars to a mobile service provider immediately the change occurs for an update, as well as not to allow a stranger to use your SIM card even when making a distress call.

The directives have come as a result of a task-force that was formed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2013, following the devastating Westgate attack.

It is believed that the the Al-Shabaab terrorists who orchestrated the attack, used fake SIM cards to communicate while laying down the attack plans.

The task-force was comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (ICT), CA, and the leading telcos. SIM card registration in particular aims to safeguard the public against a spate of insecurity, including terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, hate messages and incitement.

The move to enforce SIM card registration has been described as part of the government’s efforts to deal with the phenomenon of hate speech, hate media content and their direct connection to hate crimes.

In 2015 East African counties - Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan - decided to come up with a plan which inched the region closer to firming a common SIM card registration framework, following a rise in crimes perpetrated through mobile devices across the region.

Regulators and information, communication and technology ministers of the four countries met to harmonise the different legal and regulatory frameworks for SIM card registration. The plan is yet to come to fruition.

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