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Kenya phone firm backs subscriber order

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24 – Listed telecoms firm Safaricom has welcomed President Mwai Kibaki\’s recent directive requiring all mobile phone subscribers to be registered as a way of combating crime.

Safaricom said it would support all efforts the government was undertaking to improve the security of citizens.

The company has continued to proactively assist law enforcement officers in the investigation of crimes committed or planned by outlaws abusing its network as long as the approach is "legal and proper".

Safaricom said it would do all it can to ensure a databank is set up to assist in the fight against crime.

"We need to do this as a country.  Safaricom already has over half of our subscriber base registered through our M-PESA and PostPay services and the popular Bonga loyalty scheme, for which registration is a standard requirement. An enabling law will certainly give us the much-needed legal muscle to extend this to our entire network. It would map out how these records are to be used and give us the legal right to ask our subscribers for their details," Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph said.

He added that registration would also give the company an opportunity to better understand and serve its subscribers.

Mr Joseph further noted that while there was compelling logic for registration of all mobile phone subscribers, there remained legal and administrative challenges that the regulators and operators needed to work together to resolve.

These included keeping subscriber information confidential as per license obligations, recording user data in outlets with no computers and ensuring those without identification papers are not disenfranchised from enjoying the benefits of mobile telephony.

He said Safaricom was keen on helping the government implement the new directive but this would be done within the law and without infringing on our subscribers rights, including the right to privacy, as enshrined in its license obligations.

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"Registration is no panacea to our crime problems and it can never be surrogate to professional police investigations. As is stands, criminals will always steal phones and even identities of innocent people, but it is a necessary first step in helping us combat the recent upsurge of mobile-phone related crime. At the end of the day, crime is a societal problem whose conquest requires the concerted efforts of all. At Safaricom, we have always played our part and that will continue," said Mr Joseph.

President Kibaki gave the directive at a gala dinner hosted by Communications Commission of Kenya on 20th July 2009 as part of the regulator\’s 10th anniversary celebrations.

During the event, in a speech read on his behalf by VP Kalonzo Musyoka, the Ministry of Information and Communication was directed to put in place, within six months, a databank that will ensure all mobile telephone subscribers are registered.

Added Mr Joseph: "We are waiting for the Ministry of Information and Communication to issue specific modalities on how the directive will be implemented. Once these are issued, Safaricom will take leadership in assisting our remaining subscribers to comply. Safaricom undertakes to fully comply with the directive as soon as the process, that should include the necessary supporting legal guidelines on access to and preparation of the databank have been put in place."

Safaricom is a total telecoms operator and the leader in its category in Kenya and the region, with a subscriber base of over 13 million. It is quoted on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, where it trades on the commercials counter.

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