Kenya registers mobile phones to cut crime

Kenyan men with mobile phones About half of Kenya's population has a mobile phone

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Kenya has started to register all mobile phone numbers in a bid to cut crime.

Users will have to supply identity documents and proof of address before they get a number.

Any numbers still unregistered at the end of July will be disconnected, the government says.

The BBC's Odhiambo Joseph in Nairobi says many people there support the move, hoping it will make life more difficult for criminals.

Kidnapping gangs often use unregistered mobile numbers to text ransom demands, he says.

Police commissioner Mathew Iteere told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that mobile phones must be registered because they could now be used like computers.

"It has become a tool of banking, it can be used to steal data, [to] transmit unauthorised information and perpetrates huge frauds."

Information ministry official Bitange Ndemo last week said registering the numbers would help the authorities tackle terrorism, drugs-trafficking and money-laundering, as well as the sending of hate messages.

Neighbouring Tanzania has already started a similar exercise, so our reporter says it is not controversial.

He says the outlet he visited was packed with people registering their numbers.

Kenya has about 20 million mobile-phone users - about half the population - and has a well developed mobile-phone banking network.

Between 97-99% of mobile-phone users in Africa use pre-paid vouchers, reports the news agency Reuters.

It is easier to use pre-paid vouchers without registering an address.

However, some analysts say registering people in some African countries may be difficult if they do not live in a house with an official address.

What do you think about this plan to register all mobile phone numbers? Will it cut crime?

Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

This can only control chicken kidnappers. Being the most unpredictable, kenyans need to style police seem to know everything just twist the truth. This move cannot work against intelligent criminals being hunt by a low iq policeman.

Mulemba, Machakos

i think the move is good but there are a few issues. As much as i don't mind my details been held by the phone companies. To my knowledge we don't have any privacy laws, anyone please correct me if i am wrong. Admittedly it may not stop or reduce the theft of phones, i think it will reduce crimes carried out using services like mpesa. In addition, i don't see how feasible it is to obtain details of people not registered. How does one register sims for those not of majority age. It is not possible to put in place policies and procedures to take care of this. It is a good policy which i support but privacy. Security of data held and lack of a good identification procedure that can very both identity and residence are sticky issues. There should have been more awareness, this was announced last year, a year since it was announced, the should have been more movement earlier in the year.

Anonymous, Kenya

Has anyone given a thought to cloning of mobile numbers?? Feels like a futile effort!!

Ephraim Mukuwiri, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Yes! It can assist to an extent in tracing crooks and nailing them in a faster way.

Nyabayo Okong'o, Ngong

I support the registration, it will to some extent curb crimes that are perpetuated by mobile phones but it is obvious that this will not be the perfect panacea. KUDOS the Kenyan government for this good one move.

Maina Gachanja, Embu

The plan is perfect. Am working in Tanzania and the move have worked very well in reducing crimes. I hope this will do the same in Kenya especially on kidnapping which worrying.

Michael Maina, Nairobi

It sounds like fighting fire with a water pistol. With massive corruption, a system like that will develop thousands of loopholes in a few days. I certainly can't see it being an effective measure to keep kidnappings from happening. Kidnappers could just steal peoples phones and toss them.

Vernon, Windhoek, Namibia

Well it's a welcome development, since it will help to eradicate crimes in different form. Well here in Nigeria the NCC responsible for telecommunication here, has statered registration too, but I don't think is going to work in Nigeria. Our leaders here don't implement policies here well, all they do is to go on air and talk without actions. I see it working in other African countries, but here in Nigeria it won't work out.

David, Abuja, Nigeria

This is the only way to instil discipline and accountability among mobile phone users.

John Ocham, Kitale

I do not feel that this will solve the problem because kidnappers can still use public phone, instead the government should train investigators and stop employing failures in police force. most of police officers had below average performance in O-level. Kidnapper are very intelligent and they will defiantly look for new ways of carry out the trade.

Augustine, Kiambu

It's good exercise if meant to tackle crime, but am afraid government would use it to spy on people.

Babo Kanu, Nairobi

Only if the police are up to the task. Recently, a murderous kidnapper was arrested after killing 17 people. All the while, the police had his number and only went after him when the media's preasure became unbearable. By then, they had lost the number twice.

MWANGI GEORGE, Nairobi

This was long overdue. The serial killer would have been long arrested if he had registered his number which he was using to claim ransom for the people he had already killed. next thing the networks should bar making anonymous calls. Everything was free flow, you could buy sim card on the street, buy airtime virtually anywhere, definately criminals exploited this.

Mulati Wakachala, Nairobi

Being a recent victim to a con involving the popular mobile money transfer service M-Pesa, I believe this registration proces will help catch these kinds of con artists.

John Lioki, Nairobi

It's one of the best plans I have ever appreciated with my government. It's a good deal. I will be one of the first people to register.

Hassan S Shisanya, Mombasa

I got my number registered while in Tanzania but the exercise isn't reliable because the people have got no addresses and IDs. Forgery is still there. The phone company are just trying to please the government.

Ibrah, UK

I believe registration of mobile numbers wil highly play a big role in combating crime...i highly support this.

Elizabeth Wanjiku Muriithi, Nairobi

That exercise was conducted in Botswana last year with the hope that mobile phone theft will be reduced. We have not heard anything official yet, but the mobile phones are still being stolen like no one's business. I am not sure whether it really reduces crime.

Bz, Morwa, Botswana

I reside in rural area where there is very small population. I am in favour that all mobile phones should be registered with photocopy of ID. & house location. This process wil definately cut off crime which was previously done by alerting the criminal just by miscall.

AR SUMAR, V/Mkt, Nairobi

It is so simple to purchase a sim card and abuse it for one occasion raging from the lowest levels of mischief to organized crime. In the heat of competition between rival communication companies this important aspect was unfortunately overlooked causing untold security risks. The move by Kenyan authorities to have all cards registered is a welcome move which I would even advocate for my country.

Dr Joseph Serwadda, Kampala, Uganda

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