Fears of data privacy breaches flared Saturday as a number of Kenyans discovered they had been registered in various political parties without their consent.
Many who checked their party registration status on the government’s eCitizen platform – a process that was opened on Friday on a pilot basis – were shocked to learn that they were members of parties they have never heard of or applied to join.
Some took to social media to report that they had just discovered they were members of little-known parties such as Msingi wa Taifa Party, Farmers Party, Usawa Party and Grand Dream Development Party.
More known outfits like Jubilee Party, ODM and Amani National Congress (ANC) were also mentioned as having enlisted people as members without their knowledge.
Registrar put to task
The Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) was put to task to explain how this happen. But in a social media post Saturday morning, the registrar appeared to throw the skunk at political parties.
“Recruitment of members is done by political parties in line with respective party constitutions,” the post stated.
The registrar had earlier drawn the netizens’ ire by posting an illustration of the process of leaving a political party.
But Kenyans wondered why they have to go through the laborious process yet they did not initiate the joining process.
“A person is registered without their consent then you’re telling them to jump hoops while wasting time and money just to de-register. The victim is getting punished for the party violations of rules and regulations.,” Sam Baja stated.
Nanjala Nyabola was equally miffed: “Why can’t you match the energy you used to put us in the parties and get us all out?”
In another post, the registrar said some elements of the party membership confirmation process were in the pilot phase.
“ORPP will hold consultations with parties and stakeholders to amicably address any concerns received,” it stated.
In a letter to party secretaries-general on Friday, ORPP boss Ann Nderitu announced that the services provided by her office had been on-boarded on the eCitizen platform.
It is through using the portal, orpp.ecitizen.go.ke, that some Kenyans discovered their registration anomalies.
Journalist Geoffrey Mosoku learnt that he has been registered as a member of Jubilee Party since December 2008.
“There was no Jubilee Party in 2008, not even its predecessors URP and TNA, but here I am being told that I joined the party in December 2008. How is this even possible?” he posed.
Mr Raila Odinga Jr, the son of ODM leader Raila Odinga, found out he is a member of ANC.
According to Mr Victor Simon, the chief executive of Records and Information Management East Africa, there is an element of fraud in the questionable party registration status.
“Who enabled them to access that data? Your ID and your name and other details are held by the government. So, who is this who is giving political parties access to our data?” he posed.
A handbook available on the ORPP website notes that “it is an offence to register a person as a member of a political party without his/her consent”. And the Political Parties Act states that where a party commits an offence under the Act, every principal officer of that party “shall also be deemed to have committed the offence”.
Whether these data privacy breaches will lead to any disciplinary action is a matter of conjecture. Mr Simon opined that since there is no database of signatures, it may be hard for aggrieved Kenyans to deny making an application to join a party.
“So, it’s a catch-22 situation: One one side you’re very sure that you didn’t register, while on the other side maybe they even have your signature with the Registrar of Political Parties,” Mr Simon said.