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Kenyan internet lobby groups prepare to stand their online ground

Kenyan internet lobby groups prepare to stand their online ground

As Kenya prepares for its general elections in August, the issue of governance and specifically the regulation of the internet has featured strongly in discussion and the news.

Kenya's constitution and official policies do not make provision for network shutdowns, argues the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet).

The organisation released a report, Kenya Policy Brief on Internet Shutdowns, in which it states that the country has no legal basis to shut down the internet during or after the elections.

"The impact of the Internet on life, society and the economy is so great that decisions affecting it ought to be made within the framework of collective decision making," the report said.

It added that, "a policy affecting fundamental and human rights is subject to the international law standard of legality, proportionality and necessity. This test is captured in Article 24 of the Constitution of Kenya."

KICTANet also said that Articles 32 to 39 define civil and political liberties, namely freedoms of conscience, expression, access to information, association, assembly, political rights and movement. These rights are increasingly achieved over the internet.

The economic fallout of an internet shutdown would also affect government services, the report noted. It cited Safaricom's seven-hour outage in June which is believed to have resulted in an estimated loss of Kshs 2.6 billion.

"Internet shutdowns would be contrary to the aspirations in economic policies, as they would occasion losses," the report continued.

Internet advocacy body AccessNow has urged telecom companies in Kenya not to abide by any directive to block the internet or their networks.

"We hope that Kenyan officials will not order a shutdown, and especially not during the elections on August 8th. However, if they do, Kenyan telcos can and should publicly disclose, closely scrutinise, and legally challenge the order to protect the Kenyan people's rights – and their own reputation and financial well-being. Kenya is a leader in connectivity, accessibility, and innovation in Africa, but all of that is at risk if they choose to deliberately disrupt networks," AccessNow said.

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