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Kenya plans digital registration amid al Shabaab threat

Kenya plans digital registration amid al Shabaab threat.

Kenya plans embarking on a fresh digital citizen registration drive following high profile terrorist attacks in the country by Somali armed militant group al Shabaab.

In September last year, members of al Shabaab stormed Nairobi’s Westgate shopping complex and killed dozens of people while over 100 were left injured.

And in February this year, at least one person was killed and two security officers seriously injured in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa after police stormed a mosque that raised an al Shabaab flag.

The al Shabaab group, which is said to have links to al Qaeda, has demanded that Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta pull Kenyan troops out of Somalia. Kenyan troops have been stationed in Somalia as part of an African Union-backed peacekeeping mission.

Kenya; then, is looking to curb the terrorist threat within its borders.

And Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, has said that a digital registration drive of the country’s citizens could help fight the rising tide of terrorism in the country.

Ruto has spoken with Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials, who have had experience with the country’s digital voter registration exercise preceding last year’s general elections.

“In order to address the prevailing security challenges, we intend to consolidate all current registers of persons into a single national register with accurate and relevant information,” Ruto said.

Kenyan ministries of information, communications and technology, and interior and coordination of national government are expected to work together to bring the idea to fruition.

According to the deputy president’s press service, the national database is further expected to have biometric information, relevant certificates such as birth certificates, establishments and possessions.

Taiye Lambo, a global security expert with over 20 years of experience, has said that one of the hindrances with such a move is the corruption that is rife in most African countries.

Although he supports digitisation of citizens’ information, fraud is still a possibility, he explained.

“If you get people with the right skills, they can swap records. If there was a criminal in a digitised database, he could bribe the IT guy to change the information,” Lambo told ITWeb Africa.

Setting up a digital database may not fully solve the problem, Lambo argued.

“The government needs to also invest heavily on technical capabilities, by making sure that people who are law enforcement officers have the training to respond not only to prevent attacks and detect quickly when an attack is about to happen,” he said.

“The government has to be lucky all the time, but the bad guys have to be lucky only once,” Lambo concluded.

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