The court has halted the issuance of Huduma Namba until the government puts a comprehensive legal framework to address data privacy and the discriminatory nature of the system.
Judges Pauline Nyamweya, Mumbi Ngugi, and Weldon Korir on January 30, 2020, said regulatory framework on data privacy is “inadequate and totally wanting” – and Huduma Namba information would pose a serious risk in case of loss or unauthorized access.
The government had in January 2019 introduced National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), popularly known as Huduma Namba. NIIMS was to put in place a centralized and digital population registrar, containing data including biometrics on all citizens and foreigners resident in Kenya.
The rollout intruded on data privacy and had far-reaching ramifications on human rights. It was biased against communities like Nubians, who have been residing in Kenya for decades but lack citizenship, partly due to the government’s fault.
Consequently, Civil Society Organizations working on citizenship, legal identity, human rights, and data protection on February 14, 2019, filed four constitutional petitions challenging Huduma Namba.
The suits questioned the legality of NIIMS, lack of public participation, the inadequate framework to guarantee data privacy and protection, and its exclusionary and discriminatory risks.
The High Court in April 2019 stopped the government from making NIIMS registration mandatory and linking it to public service. The government could not collect DNA or GPS, share data it had collected with a third party, and set deadlines for NIIMS registration.
The three judges ruled it is unconstitutional for the government to collect DNA and GPS.
“We will monitor these orders. We cannot allow the Ministry of Interior to operate outside of the Constitution of Kenya and violate people’s rights in the pursuit of the ‘national interest’,” CSOs who filed the suits, said January 31, 2020, in a joint communique.
The groups are Nubian Rights Forum, Muhuri, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Law Society of Kenya, InformAction, Haki Centre, and Article 19. Others are Inuka Trust and Haki na Sheria Initiative. Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) was also a petitioner.
They said, “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.”