2 January 2013

Kenya: Unregistered SIM Card Users Risk Three Years Jail Term

Kenyans who have not registered their mobile phone Sim cards have until Friday to do so or risk a jail term of three years. Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said they will also be liable to pay a Sh300, 000 fine in addition to the sentence.

Speaking during a press conference, he reiterated that the registration of sim cards will reduce incidents of crime and terrorism.

"We have until Friday and everybody should understand that the implication of not registering would actually cost them Sh300, 000 or three years in jail."

"The regulations are already with the Attorney General's office and the gazette notice is coming out on Friday. The legal framework is already in place," he said.

Ndemo added that mobile operators who do not switch off unregistered lines will also pay a Sh300, 000 fine per Sim card. "We are in the electioneering period and we are looking forward to the March elections and we must do everything that we can to ensure that the process goes smoothly."

"That we are able to arrest those who are criminals among ourselves or who are bent on spreading hate messages," he explained.

"This has not been the case before and that is why we need everybody to know that it is contravening the law to carry an unregistered phone."

He emphasised that mobile phone operators will also be liable for activities carried out using a subscription medium registered in that person's name.

"We have six million sim cards which are unaccounted for and we do not know whether these are the ones sending messages from Kamiti prison. Hopefully if they are the ones, we need to get them dis-connected. This is the problem that we have been having."

The enactment of several key laws, including the Finance Act 2012 and the Kenya Information and Communications Act have given CCK the mandate to carry out the disconnection this time round after an earlier attempt was stopped because the necessary laws were not in place.

Contravention of the laws banning use or selling of counterfeit phones attracts a fine not exceeding Sh300, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both. Apart from infringing on manufacturer's intellectual property rights, counterfeits also deny the government of revenue in form of tax.

The Communications PS added that the Government is keen to see all sim cards registered to avoid a repeat of the 2007/08 post election violence where text messages were used to ignite and fan inter-community tensions.

"Law enforcement agencies were unable to bring the culprits to book due to the low number of registered sim cards, which was aggravated by rampant usage of counterfeit devices."

The commission said it is committed to offering secure Information Communications Technology platforms to Kenyans.

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