Refine law on identification systems, inclusion


An officer sorts Huduma cards at the National Registration Bureau in Nyeri town on April 28, 2021. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Debate over what is contained in the Huduma Bill has filled the discourse in both the main media outlets and social media after first reading end of year.

Previous Huduma Bills 2019 and 2020 failed to address key issues of inclusivity raised in court petitions, court orders, and memorandums civil organisations and the public submitted.

As a nation it is very important to reflect on this and what changes we need to see in the Huduma Namba system and in Kenya’s identification system as a whole. It is a blessing for the nation to shape the next steps in ensuring inclusive identification of persons.

But what is inclusion? Inclusion is the ability for everyone to equally access documentation despite their diversity. It is a good opportunity as a nation to consider at-risk communities that are left at the mercy of the registration clerks to have a final say on whether they can get legal identification or not.

Some of these at risk communities are street children who have no documentation and even if they were to get they may not want to be associated with the families that they ran away from.

Also note that an ID is not considered proof of nationality neither is a passport, as the current laws on identity stand. A passport is a mere travel document. Minority groups such as Muslims can attest to this because they get vetted to get an ID and still get vetted to get a passport.

The Bill proposes to repeal the Registration of Persons Act and the Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service Act 2011 both very key laws in terms of nationality rights and identification in Kenya.

The Bill further plans to introduce a passport as the ultimate proof of nationality and residence in Kenya. This is an important move though wrongly placed as not everyone can access or needs a passport.

Proof of nationality should be available to all Kenyans at birth and not when one wants a travel document. Proof of nationality by birth should be upon registration of birth, thus should be placed on a birth certificate.