The involuntary registration of electorates to political parties without consent, is gross violation of the right to privacy and presents significant infractions of the Data Protection ACT,2019.
This is not a new phenomenon, but has been there with us from the time political parties shifted from the registrar of societies to political parties with the creation of the political parties Act,2007 and the formation of registrar of political parties office to provide oversight.
Initially, political parties did not have legal personality or perpetual succession and basically, belonged to individuals either as private business entities.
The Political Parties Act, 2011, addresses the inherent gaps in the 2007 Act by providing the institutional, legal and regulatory framework for registration, regulation, management and funding of political parties in Kenya that had been lacking since independence.
Under the Act, political parties have legal personality and therefore can sue ,be sued and own property, among other functions.
From onset under the new law all political parties were required to comply right from fresh provisional to full registration upon fulfilling the prescribed provisions such as; recruitment of members, not fewer than one thousand registered
voters from each of more than half of the counties; with a reflection on regional and ethnic diversity, gender balance and representation of special interest
groups; submit to the registrar, a list of the names, addresses and identification particulars of all its members; the location and postal address of its head office and branches in more than twenty four counties in kenya. This has less been the case.
The compliance process was a tall order to majority of the parties in place; risking deregistration and exclusion from the political parties fund. It gave birth to political parties adopting dubious tactics such as using Mpesa and students’ Institutional databases to recruit members.
10 years down the line the anomaly of having legible citizens appearing in various political parties unknowingly is still prevalent and is the norm despite having a fully fledged office courtesy of taxpayers in place to manage the affairs of political parties. The registrar of political parties needs an affirmative strategy on party membership registration, resignation, verification and enforcement of the same to address the challenge.
The mess is cross-cutting with innocent citizens, senior party officials and leaders falling victims. The last previous elections witnessed many potential candidates getting barred by IEBC at the time of presenting their nomination papers on the grounds of not being a party member despite registering practically; yet appearing as a member of another party unknowingly. This should be checked to avert a crisis as we head into the next general election.
The concerns by amnesty international over these developments remain genuinely valid: “This denies kenyans the right to make free political choices which includes the right to join a political party of their choice”
The registrar of political parties should strengthen ICT infrastructure with robust systems and foster civic education for political parties and their supporters.
The principles and obligation of personal data protection require data controllers and processors to ensure that data is accurate and kept up to date, with reasonable steps being taken to ensure that inaccurate personal data is erased or rectified without delay.
The office of registrar of political parties, is duty bound by the Data Protection Act, 2019 to proactively ensure that personal data within their domain and systems is accurate.
Founder- Integrated Development Network