North Eastern residents to get National IDs in 21 days

Long queue seen at the Department of Immigration Services. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Residents of North-eastern Kenya and surrounding counties will now receive National IDs within three weeks as the Government moves to address historical registration challenges.

According to Immigration and Citizen Services PS Prof Julius Bitok, the government will also review policies on mandatory vetting of residents in Tana River, Isiolo, Marsabit, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties as pre-condition to issuance of IDs and other registration documents.

The PS who was speaking during a meeting with MPs from the six counties that had been convened to discuss ways to fast-track and promote registration of residents in the vast region however said the review will be subject to the Cabinet approval.

"This meeting kicks off the journey towards eliminating vetting of persons from northern Kenya. We are determined to honour the President's commitment to ensure all Kenyans are treated fairly and have equal access to Government's services. We will ensure IDs are delivered within 21 days," said Bitok.

According to Saku MP Ali Rasso Dido, who is also North-eastern parliamentary caucus chairman and Mandera North MP Abdullah Bashir Sheikh, the legislators had urged the government to do away with the vetting saying it amounted to discrimination and was largely responsible for low registration figures in the counties.

The leaders cited numerous challenges encountered by their constituents when pursuing birth certificates, IDs and passports. They include long distances, high costs of travel and inordinate delays in the vetting processes.

"Members of the northern Kenya communities are majorly pastoralists therefore they move quite often in search of greener pastures for their livestock. These migratory patterns find them crossing even country borders for long periods of time. Some marry and even get children across neighbouring countries," said Rasso.

The MPs asked the government to prioritise the hiring of locals from the region who they said are better placed to adapt to the nomadic lifestyle of the community and to promote confidence in the registration process while also promoting inclusivity in public service.

The chairperson of the President's Council on Economic Affairs David Ndii rooted for the elimination of vetting arguing it was counterproductive. He said affected communities felt marginalised therefore exposing their members to radicalisation and anti-government groupings.

"Communities that feel discriminated are more vulnerable to radicalisation. Ethnic profiling is wrong. It is our responsibility as the government to end it by removing barriers and inconveniences brought about by country borders and in place of it bring about equality in government services and resource distribution," said Ndii.

Vetting as a requirement to the issuance of ID and birth certificate became entrenched in Northern Kenya following the Shifta insurgency of the 1960s. It is frowned upon by the Northern Kenya communities who regard it as ethnic profiling and discrimination and as a deliberate barrier to access to important government services.

PS Bitok under whose docket birth certificates, IDs and passports fall however said the elimination of vetting will be balanced against larger security concerns especially along porous borders. He said the introduction of the Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) as birth certificate number will eliminate the need for future vetting for IDs.

Registration agencies will also be required to work together to ensure citizens are not subjected to repeat verification process while the ongoing digitalisation will ensure that records for all Kenyans are verifiable through a single search.

Others who attended the meeting were Director General, Immigration Alexander Muteshi, Secretary for National Registration Bureau Christopher Wanjau and Civil Registration Bureau Secretary Paul Mwangemi.