Dear Registrar of Political Parties; we smell a fat rat

The Registrar of Political Parties, Ann Nderitu when she appeared before National Assembly Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee on March 3, 2020 at Parliament Buildings. 

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • We now know that our private information isn’t safe anymore.
  • This breach of private data borders on criminal culpability.

Kenyans woke up this week to find someone had allocated them membership spaces in various political parties. When asked what she knew about the matter, the Registrar of Political Parties (RPP) couldn’t confirm or deny she had been cooking private data. She mumbled many words, falling short of biting her tongue in the process.

We now know that our private information isn’t safe anymore. We have been denying strangers our phone numbers thinking it makes us security conscious, only to discover someone has been showing them to political parties. Only God knows what other services the parties have been accessing with the numbers.

It now makes sense why many people have been complaining of receiving unsolicited ads from condom companies even when they swear their religion doesn’t allow them to get in touch with contraceptives and switch off their television whenever two people behave in a manner likely to suggest they are about to teach them bad manners.

You’ve also heard of cases of unscrupulous individuals squatting in prison bunkers who have been stealing the identities of school children and asking gullible parents for money to visit a yet-to-be discovered tourist site or contribute towards the burial of Tupac.

Stealing private data

We can now tell why the IEBC servers refused to wake up that day in 2017, even after being slapped with a court order that would have sent anyone else to the drug store to buy painkillers. 

If the infringement of voter private data can cause extended sleeping sickness to the IEBC servers, what guarantees do Kenyans have that during next year’s elections the commission will not ask them to free it from slavery?

There are many ways to encourage Kenyans to get involved in the activities of political parties. Stealing their private data isn’t one of them.

Belonging to a political party has done bad things to many Kenyans. People have been profiled at the workplace, lost dinner table arguments, cut ties with loved ones, and been reminded that razor blade is not just a circumcision tool but also a symbol of bad governance. If you walked into an interview room and got confronted with a printout of your political party affiliation when you said in the application form that you and politics are like oil and water, would it be too much to ask the government to compensate you for polluting your integrity?

Breach of private data

The RPP says the exercise was a pilot programme. What it doesn’t understand is that the information it has given us is not what we were looking for. If we wanted it to set its own interview questions and answer them, we would’ve asked the Kenya National Examinations Council to offer capacity building programs at our cost.

Kenyans already know what the RPP has done. What is remaining is to be informed how it accessed our private data, who authorised it to act on our behalf, and who else it has shared our data with.

We know the Jubilee government promised to be closer to the people but we don’t remember telling them that our tongues are heavy and we needed help in talking to political parties.

If you’re going to match-make us with political parties you should first seek to know our preferences. Contrary to popular belief Kenyans have taste and even though Covid-19 has been messing with our taste buds, we still can smell political parties and tell which ones have bad breath.

It might sound like a joke, but this breach of private data borders on criminal culpability. The Registrar should be thankful that Kenyans are currently busy helping the government fight Covid-19. Otherwise we would have asked for its leadership to be put behind the grills and be made to sing like a canary.

Mr Oguda comments on topical issues. [email protected]