Days of Huduma Namba no longer numbered as government embraces flexibility

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i during an interview with Radio Maisha before the launch of Huduma Namba registration at the Standard Group headquarters, Mombasa Road on 17/4/19-[Beverlyne Musili,Standard]

In January the Government announced its plan to register all Kenyans and foreigners setting aside Sh6 billion for the National Integrated Information Management System (NIIMS) programme.

Blemished by ridicule and pessimism, the initiative was entrusted with Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho at its infancy.

PS Kibicho called a press conference on January 31, 2019 to announce the pilot registration famously known as Huduma Namba in 15 counties for the next 45 days.

Like Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, his boss; Mr Kibicho sounds tough-talking. His zeal almost parallels Matiang'i's save for some hidden difference between the two.

SEE ALSO :Police surveillance, Huduma cash slashed

As fears over personal data security emerged, Kibicho had to assuage them.

One of the most alarming allegations was the rumour that government was harvesting DNA samples during the registration. This sowed seeds of mistrust.

"This form will be asking your bio data which is your name, your citizenship, parents, education, physical disabilities if there is any economic activities and employment status, only 10 finger prints and your photo," he explained.

The pilot registration kicked off in various counties but to low reception. What ensued were counter conspiracies discouraging Kenyans against the registration.

Such include an allegation, which was generated by some Christian preachers that the Huduma Namba is the (in)famous 666, the number of satanic power in the Bible in Revelations Chapter 13.

SEE ALSO :State harsh plan for those without Huduma Namba

President Uhuru Kenyatta himself had to debunk the myth while addressing residents of Masii, Machakos County, during a visit on April 2, 2019.

"I respect preachers as I am a Christian myself but I was surprised to hear some saying that Huduma namba is the devil's number. What does registration have to do with the devil," Uhuru said, expressing his shock at the claims.

The President further said that the Government was not planning to harvest DNA samples from unsuspecting Kenyans, neither was it planning to expose those with clandestine lovers as was alleged in the public domain.

After having marshaled opposition politicians, Raila Odinga (ODM), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) to lead registration drive in various pockets of the country-one man was yet to register- the Deputy President William Ruto.

Kenyans who developed cold feet expressed their fears in social media, with some supporters of DP Ruto claiming that 'their master was yet to give them a signal' to register.

SEE ALSO :It is critical we get it right on Huduma Namba registration

A week later, on April 7, 2019, Ruto registered for Huduma Namba in Nairobi after missing its launch putting the political tension and conspiracies to rest.

New efforts

From fighting the negative perceptions and counter allegations, the Government may have done the math to identify the missing button to press, and the right man to press it.

The Interior CS Fred Matiang'i burst into the scene with his gusto, ready to accomplish the job and have Kenyans registered.

He appeared at the preliminary stage of its introduction, went underground and resurfaced with more a benevolent, rather than coercive  approach.

Such efforts have been channeled to various communication conduits targeting the public with reassuring information of data safety and efficient service delivery.

Matiang'i may have taken it from where his boss, President Uhuru left, changing public perception. 

Dr Matiang'i would urge Kisumu County residents not to buy the propaganda being spread that the Huduma Namba is the enforcement of Satanic number, 666.

"My countrymen, I plead with you. This nonsense you are hearing about 666 stay away from it…it's a pure lie," he said.

Amidst cheers, he explained the benefits of the registration to the common man, especially on service delivery.

"Just like the governor (Anyang' Nyong'o) has said, I would like to emphasise that when you go home, tell everyone this is the time to register and to acquire Huduma Namba," he urged them.

Just days before that, Dr Matiang'i visited the coastal region to spread the same gospel, telling residents that the initiative would wipe out bureaucracy including the "missing files" narrative in the offices.

The Government strategies are not only limited to using county governments, county commissioners and local authorities; the media is also a target.

While applauding the progress of the registration, CS Matiang'i said on NTV more than five million Kenyans have so far registered. 

Today, he took his message to the Radio Maisha to explain the initiative. He was optimistic of beating the May 18 deadline-timeline set to register all Kenyans.

Asked whether the exercise is expensive and strenuous to the tax payer, he said that government will instead save money by rolling it out.

He said:

"We will save at least Sh 20 billion. These are funds which would have been spent in other areas like working on new generation identity cards, driving licences and much more."

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NIIMSKaranja KibichoFred Matiang'iPresident UhuruHuduma Namba666