In order to monitor what everyone is saying online, Government of Kenya has directed all the Mobile Network operators to issue every mobile device in Kenya with IP address. The Government are going out full force to monitor what people are saying on Twitter and blogs . The aim of the directive is to help the Government pinpoint the exact locations and on which devices people are using.
At the same time The Government has formed blogs response team and currently investigating 8 bloggers in Kenya. According to P.S. Ndemo, the eight bloggers are among those who were calling for churches to be burned in Mombasa following the Killing of the Controversial Music Cleric Aboud Rogo. According UN report Aboud Rogo Mohammed was on US and UN sanction lists for supporting Somalia’s al-Shabab fighters.
All These have happened on the week when Kenyan Government was playing host to the delegates from several countries across the world attending the Online Freedom Conference in Nairobi. At this point we have to look at exactly where the line is. Online Freedom vs Personal Responsibility. What exactly are people meant to say online and where is the limit. When one is online where does the freedom of an individual A ends vs individual B . I think it is very irresponsible to call for the Churches to be burned in Coast and such people should face the full force of the law. It is also irresponsible to accuse people of doing things without a solid proof, just because you can behind anonymity of the internet or behind a laptop or on the phone. But at the same, citizens should guard against the Government which might take advantage of that and start curtailing the Freedom of expression online
It is important to note that there have been a number of events in Kenya in the last few weeks before the issue of Churches came up which requires careful consideration. Following the Post Election Violence which happened in 2008, most Kenyans are in agreement that all must work to avoid the same happening again. That requires the Government to work in good faith in protecting Kenyans from any danger. But at the same time citizens have to remember that there are people in the Government who might want to take advantage of any loophole in the law. For example a blogger was arrested for “illegal tweets“. What exactly are illegal tweets? Are the so called illegal tweets fall under criminal or civil case in Kenya? Most Kenyans online gave it a pass because the blogger in question is not in good terms with most of them.
This part of the law which is now being used by the Government in the case of illegal tweet:
Section 29 is about improper use of telecommunications systems, and reads:
29. A person who by means of a licensed telecommunication system—
(a) sends a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
(b) sends a message that he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.
There is a flow chart on Simply Kenyan Law blog, which has outlined the questions you need to ask yourself to figure out if you are posting something illegal or not.
My personal opinion is if you say something online which is against the decency of commonsense, then the law should be allowed to take its full force. At that point, the best place to shout the word Freedom should be in the court of law. At the same time I think section 29 of the Kenyan law is ambiguous and should be rectified.
Back to the Government directive to the mobile network operators. For it to happen effectively the mobile network operators will have to upgrade the Internet’s main communications protocol from IPv4 to IPv6. IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) is intended to succeed IPv4. IPv6 was developed to deal with the long-anticipated problem of IPv4 running out of addresses. IPv4 allows for only 4,294,967,296 unique addresses worldwide (or less than one address per person alive in 2012), but IPv6 allows for around 4.8×1028 addresses per person — a number unlikely ever to run out.
There has been assumption that IPv4 can used in Kenya for the next two years without any problem but I guess that would not be the case anymore