Communications Authority, leave us out of your mess

Sim cards register communications authority

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has ordered all telcos to register unregistered customer SIM cards. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

So the Communications Authority, led by Ezra Chiloba, clearly has a problem being an authority on anything, much less communicating it. This has made me think that the rules they were throwing about loosely last week were not of their own making, but of a higher power, invested in confusing those citizens caught in the crossfire of a sure to be complicated election year. The timing is just too convenient for it to be otherwise.

First off, the authority (and I use this in the loosest sense of the term) claimed that all subscribers to telecoms in Kenya should make sure that their details are appropriately registered. A few months ago, they had made a short code available for this very thing, that people then used, largely suspiciously, to check their registration details.

Then all of a sudden, after this was announced, Safaricom decided that now was the time to demand that subscribers appear in person for a compulsory picture that had absolutely nothing to do with the CA-mandated registration.

A few questions came to mind. What was the point of the short code? What was the point of the picture, and appearing in person, if this is something we all did when initially registering for our SIM cards? If the root of the issue was to weed out miscreants, conmen, and terrorists, did it not then fall on the Safaricom agents to ensure that information they were receiving was correct, as opposed to forcing the general populace to queue ad infinitum? And what were they going to do about the agents who were making people pay to register?

It was all very confusing. Somehow, with the loss of Bob Collymore (may his soul rest in eternal peace), the common sense behind Safaricom was also buried. Because so little of it made sense, Safaricom and the CA had to back-pedal their directives significantly. This is also, of course, after Chiloba threatened Kenyans that jail time and/or a fine would be served if SIM cards were not properly registered by April 15. Something that if you have been alive in the past 10 years of Kenyan existence you know not to do – if there’s something Kenyans hate, it’s threats. See also: passports, Huduma Namba, Covid-19 vaccinations.

Somehow, also, Airtel et al. managed to make the registration a simple, online process, something you would think the telecom with the largest market share would be able to do. Then on the other hand, the CA changed its directives – again! – to say that this was not a re-registration, and it was just for people who were unsubscribed. What? Then why the misinformed, misappropriated threats? And, Communications Authority, why was this not communicated in the initial…communication?

The CA needs to ask itself exactly what illegality they’re trying to pass off as law, and stick to that narrative. Even though we don’t act like it, handing over data in an environment with a dearth of data laws is in actuality, dangerous. Either they are ignorant of this or uncaring, and this consistent changing of the goalposts is confusing.

Like, now the deadline – for unregistered users to register – has been moved to October. Conveniently, it seems, a large number of people who were registered already on that *106# platform are now being told that a last step of their registration is missing. Surely. Once again we must queue for fuel, and milk, and now fake registration? When does it end? Sort yourself out, CA, Safaricom, and leave us out of your mess.