Source: Nubian Rights Forum, Kenya Human Rights Commission and others
The government of Kenya introduced the National Integrated Identity Management System, NIIMS, which came to be popularly known as Huduma Namba in January 2019. NIIMS was to put in place a new centralized and digital population register as a “single source of truth,” containing personal data including biometrics on all citizens and foreigners resident of Kenya.
Civil society organizations working on matters of citizenship, legal identity, human rights, and data protection came together to file four constitutional petitions contesting the roll out of Huduma Namba.
The case challenged the constitutionality of NIIMS based on the use of a miscellaneous amendments bill to pass substantive amendments, the lack of public participation in the process, inadequate frameworks to guarantee data privacy and protection, and the risk the system could further entrench discrimination and exclusion of marginalized groups in Kenya. The case affects the rights of all people in Kenya.
In April 2019, the High Court issued interim orders that put important restrictions on the government while they carried out the Huduma Namba enrollment exercise. Until the full case concluded, the government was restricted from making Huduma Namba registration mandatory, linking Huduma Namba to public services, collecting DNA or GPS, setting any deadline for registration, or sharing the data collected with third parties.
Yesterday, on 30th January 2020, the High Court gave a judgement stopping the implementation of NIIMS due to several key gaps.
- The court finds the legal framework on data privacy is “inadequate and totally wanting” as a result of a rushed process. The court noted the law is unclear and ambiguous because it lacks an operational framework for NIIMS. Information collected under NIIMS falls under the category of sensitive personal data, which would pose serious risk in case of loss or unauthorized access.
- The courts found NIIMS has a high risk of excluding an entire segment of the Kenyan population. Catastrophic exclusion from the system and services could affect people lacking documentation, people facing hurdles with biometrics, and many others.
- The court declared that the amendments allowing collection DNA and GPS are unconstitutional and struck them off due to their intrusive and unnecessary nature.
Implementation of NIIMS is halted until the time that a comprehensive regulatory framework is in place to address both data privacy and the exclusionary nature of the system.
We will monitor these orders. We cannot allow the Ministry of Interior to operate outside of the Constitution of Kenya and violate the people’s rights in the pursuit of the “national interest.”
We will monitor adherence to this judgement and continue our vigilance.
We congratulate the people of Kenya for standing up against blatant intimidation and disregard for the rule of law and the High Court for standing up to protect the rights of the people.
Nubian Rights Forum
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Law Society of Kenya
Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI)
Haki na Sheria Initiative