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It’s complicated: Yes, Wangusi threatened unregistered Huduma Namba Kenyans with SIM switch-off – but his threat is incorrect

On 2 April 2019, Kenya began biometric registration of all citizens.

Once the process ends on 18 May, all registered citizens will be given a unique identity number – the Huduma Namba – which they will need to access government services.

Some 31 million Kenyans were reported to have registered by 13 May 2019. But there are questions about what will happen to people who don’t register – specifically, if their phone SIM cards will be switched off.

On 17 April Francis Wangusi, director-general of the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK), warned on national TV that people without a Huduma Namba “will not get a SIM card”.

“We are waiting for the 45 days [to the deadline] to end,” he said. “Unless you have a Huduma Namba, you don’t have a SIM card. So prepare yourself. And when we say it that way, it could be a polite order. But it is an order that is enforceable.”

The threat was widely shared on Facebook, attracting thousands of comments and reactions. But is it true?

Yes, it’s true that Wangusi made the threat, as the Facebook posts report. But the threat itself is incorrect.

‘No directive for punitive measures’

Nzioka Waita, the Kenyan presidency’s chief of staff, said the government would not punish people who didn’t register for Huduma Namba.

On 18 April he tweeted: “For the avoidance of doubt, Huduma Number registration is a voluntary exercise in compliance with the ruling of the courts. There is no directive from the government to institute any punitive measures against those who don’t register. More emphasis will be laid on civic education!”

‘Quoted out of context’

CAK later said in a statement that Wangusi had only meant to stress the importance of Huduma Namba registration.

“We wish to clarify that the director-general has been quoted out of context,” it said. “For the record, Mr Wangusi emphasised the importance of the Huduma Namba as a single source of truth for the identity of citizens.”

The authority added that it would push for changes to the country’s laws to ensure the Huduma Namba became the sole proof of identity for SIM card registration, to stop fraudulent registration using stolen or lost identity cards.

“There are no plans in place to switch off SIM cards for subscribers who will not have registered for Huduma Namba by the set deadline of May 18,” it said.

True or false?

Africa Check is a member of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme. We’re tasked with checking if Facebook posts are true, false, or something in between.

It can get complicated. The Facebook posts that reported what Wangusi said were true – he said the words. The posts were not false news.

That’s why the verdict here is “true”.

But what Wangusi said was incorrect. – Dancan Bwire (15/05/19)

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