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Man’s 31-year battle for ID flops as court sends him back to square one

By Kamau Muthoni | September 30th 2021

For 31 years, Ahmed Abdulahi Adan has been a refugee in his own motherland.

The 61-year-old man was born in Wajir County, but he has lived without a national identity card for more than 31 years.

Just like any other Kenyan, Adan applied for the ID when he attained the age of 18. At the time, he was living in Busia County. With the ID card number 9229219, he moved to Nairobi.

In 1989, the government rounded some members of the Somali community, confiscated their IDs for screening but never returned them.

When his efforts to get another card hit a dead end, he took the Interior ministry to court.

But the High Court judge Weldon Korir has dismissed his case, arguing he failed to prove that he has a pending application for another ID.

“I’m unable to fashion any useful remedy for the petitioner. Had he demonstrated that there is indeed a pending application for an identity card before the third respondent, this court would have directed the third respondent to consider such an application within a given time frame,” Justice Korir ruled.

Korir observed that under the 2010 Constitution, Adan has a chance of re-applying for the document.

The court, however, noted that the inability of a person who has a right to citizenship to have identification documents has an adverse impact on their capacity to enjoy the basic rights.

“It is noted that the events complained of by the petitioner occurred during the old constitutional dispensation and the right to citizenship may not have been well illuminated by the repealed constitution as it is now. However, the petitioner’s statelessness remains unaddressed,” he observed.

According to records, Adan’s name ended up in a list of Somali nationals who were running away from Ethiopia-Somali Ogaden War between 1977 and 1978. Those who had gained Kenyan IDs were repatriated, but he had nowhere to be taken to.

He argued the government did not give him a chance to prove his nationality.

“In 1989, the Somali community was screened and my identification card confiscated by the authorities. The identification card was never returned and my attempts to be issued with another one from the relevant authorities have failed,” said Adan.

He claimed that the government violated his right to have a document of identification.

In its reply, the ministry insisted that it could not issue him with an ID as his name is still in the list.

The Deputy Director of the National Registration Bureau John Kinyumu testified that following the Ogaden War, there was an influx of non-Kenyan Somalis towards the end of 1989, which saw an increase in banditry attacks in the North Eastern region.

He stated that the then Principal Registrar of Persons appointed senior public officials on November 7, 1989 to confirm the veracity of registration documents of all Kenyans of Somali origin. The task force comprised 67 public officers, all Kenyan Somalis.

The team scrutinised identification documents and individuals tribe, sub-tribe and jilib, the smallest unit of a clan. They also considered their ability to speak Kiswahili and mastery of Kenyan history and current affairs.

Kimunyu said that following the investigations, verification certificates were issued to Kenyan Somalis and the identification cards of non-Kenyan Somalis were withdrawn and repatriation orders issued.

According to the officer, Adan required to produce documents to show he was born in Wajir or have his relatives collaborate the claim.

Kamau Muthoni

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