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Why are 600,000 SIM cards not registered?

By - | October 10th 2013

If the drama surrounding the summoning and interrogation of four chief executive officers of mobile phone network firms was meant to send a message, it appears to have been lost.

One would assume that the police want to prove they are leaving no stone unturned in their search for information about the Westgate Mall terrorists. Unfortunately, the manner of the operation produced more heat than light.

First, there is a clear disconnect between the statement made by the police and the Communications Commission of Kenya, on the one hand, and that by the mobile telephone operators, on the other.

According to police investigations, although those who masterminded the attack used more than 100 lines to communicate locally and internationally, none of the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards the terrorists used were registered as required by law. Indeed, CCK argues that about 600,000 subscribers are unregistered.

The four operators’ statement was equally clear that, “we are in full compliance with the law and will continue working together with the various regulators and law enforcement agencies in the execution of their public duty…all four operators have gone over and above what is required by law by adhering to international standards of mobile security systems.” Unfortunately, the veracity of the operators’ joint statement was undermined the same day when two local media houses sent their staff out to buy SIM cards and were able to use some of them without registration.

Second, it is understandable that the police were miffed by the collective failure of the mobile telephone operators to disconnect unregistered SIM cards operating on their networks, despite having been given until March to do so.

In the circumstances, the mobile telephone operators, or anyone else, should not have been surprised that the Westgate Mall attack changed the way the police deal with issues touching on national security. This is serious because nearly 70 people died and scores were injured in the attack. No one can, or should, expect special treatment when it comes to unravelling what happened to ensure it does not recur.

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