Legal and policy changes have heralded a new dawn for the registration of persons Kenya. It deals with issues of passport, visas, and work permits.
Since independence, the immigration and Registration of persons Kenya sectors have realized some major achievements, actualizing some of the key issues central to decades of clamor for a new constitution in Kenya.
The promulgation of the new constitution in 2010 was a watershed for it heralded a new dawn, marked by a raft of policy and legislative changes whose implementation has realigned the ministry and given it a new look.
As a result of the realignment, these sectors have now been restructured to encompass the departments of National Registration Bureau which caters for internally displaced persons, Civil Registration which deals with births and deaths and the department of immigration which is tasked with issuance of passport, visas, and work permits.
The departments of refugee affairs and integrated population registration services (population register) have also been placed within the ambit of the ministry.
Origins of registration of persons Kenya
The issuing of Kenya identity cards dates back to 1915 when the colonial government enacted The Native Registration Ordinance. The objective of registration of persons kenya was to supervise and control the recruitment of male Africans into colonial labour.
The Ordinance made it mandatory for all male adults aged 16 and above to be registered. After registration, they were issued with registration papers kept in copper chained metal containers commonly referred to as Kipande.
The Kipande was ordinarily worn around the neck. Although the law had been enacted in 1915, it was not until 1919 and 1920 that it was implemented.
When this law came into effect, it meant that every African male aged 16 and above was to be issued with the metal container, which was worn around the neck like a dog collar. This elicited a lot of hatred among those forced to wear it.
While the government used the Kipande to curtail freedom of Africans and monitor labour supply, it also empowered the police to stop a native anywhere and demand to be shown the document.
The Kipande contained vital information about the bearer’s employment and identity of the employer. It was, therefore, used by the government and the settlers to prevent African labourers from deserting their employment.
To the African, the Kipande was like a badge of slavery and sparked bitter protests and angry delegations were sent to the British by delegations, which were at times led by Jomo Kenyatta.
There were riots in 1931 among the whites when the colonial government tried to abolish the Kipande. The settlers sensed this would end their control over their labourers.
However, it was finally scrapped in 1947 having outlived its usefulness as cheap labour was freely available and a new law, the Registration of Persons Ordinance was passed to make it mandatory for all male persons of all races of 16 years and above to be registered.
However, a few years later in 1952, parts of the Central Kenya erupted in renewed violence, which led to the declaration of the state of emergency in October 1952, culminating with the arrest of all the suspected Mau Mau leaders.
The government reiterated in kind when it introduced a new system of identifying members of the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru people. Through the new form of identification, the passbook, hundreds of thousands of workers of the three communities were hounded out of Nairobi and Rift Valley.
While hundreds of thousands of suspected Mau Mau members were arrested and detained without trial, the passbook was effectively used to regulate those who were entitled to work.
Like the Kipande, the passbook was used to ruthlessly control movement of people from Mt Kenya region from moving out of their home areas.
Africans Wishing to travel to some closed districts like Samburu, Isiolo, Kapenguria and the entire Northern Eastern Province had to obtain special passes.
The passes were such that visitors were only allowed to be in the closed district for a very limited period as the passes had an expiry date.
Registration of Persons Kenya: Discrimination of Women in Kenya
But under this new law, the identity cards issued distinguished between protectorate and non-protectorate persons. Although the Ordinance sought to remove discrimination based on race, it discriminated against women as they were not issued with IDs.
This discrimination would continue even after independence and throughout President Jomo Kenyatta’s tenure from 1963 to 1978. Women only got reprieve after President Daniel Arap Moi directed that women be issued with national IDs for the first time.
This milestone for women came following the amendment the Registration of Persons Act (Cap 107, Laws of Kenya) to include the registration of women who had attained the age of 16 years and above.
With the issuance of IDs, women could now open bank accounts and run businesses without depending on the goodwill of men.
This development ushered a new chapter for women in Kenya as the economic empowerment enabled them to own property, such as land. The law was further amended in 1980 to raise the age of registration from 16 to 18 years.
Registration of Persons Kenya – Evolution of the Identity card in Kenya
The identity card has also evolved over the years from the Kipande won around the neck to a card, which now ﬁts into a person’s wallet.
The Identity Card has a crucial link to citizenship and nationality in Kenya and is crucial in determining the extent an individual enjoys his/ her fundamental rights and freedoms within the country.
Section 10 of the Registration of Persons Act (Cap 107, Laws of Kenya) provides that a person may be required by an authority to produce an ID card when applying for the grant of any license, permit or other documents, or for the exercise of lawful or judicial functions.
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It is, therefore, an obligation for all Kenyans who are eighteen years and above to register and be issued with national identity cards, failing to do so is a crime.
Since 1963, identity cards issued have been at two levels: First generation and second – generation identity cards. The First generation identity cards were issued until 1995 when the government started a massive campaign to replace these cards with the second-generation cards.
This was necessitated by a number of weaknesses that led to the shifting to second-generation cards. Some of these weaknesses included illegal registration of aliens; easy manipulation, forgeries and theft; easy duplication of identity card numbers; delays in replacing lost identity cards and double registration.
These loopholes compromised national security in Kenya and had to be sealed. The second-generation identity card has to some extent addressed some of those initial concerns. This has been possible through the use of modern technology that provides a secure identification document by applying the service of computerised Fingerprint system.
In the build-up to the March 4, 2013 general election, the deployment of biometric voter registration system during the registration of voters provided Kenya with a unique opportunity.
Since the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission, IEBC registered 14.3 million voters the country can now use the biometric features such as facial images and fingerprints to update its civil registration bureau.
So far, the National Registration Bureau holds bio-data of 14 million Kenyans.
The Government of Kenya has also established an Alien Registration System. This system is used to register aliens and refugees Within Kenyan borders and to produce relevant registration certiﬁcates and Refugee identity Cards.
Attempts to issue any form of identification has been long and controversial as the various regimes have encountered difficulties in establishing Kenyans from aliens.
Registration of Persons Kenya – Screening ID applicants in NEP
Kenyan-Somalis have been subject to Somali irredentist policy since the independence of Somalia in 1960.
During the colonial era, North Eastern Province (NEP) was a closed zone where people’s freedoms were curtailed. Movement in and out of the region was strictly controlled by the government.
The Colonial Government in Kenya too had imposed a policy to isolate and exclude this area and the residents from the rest of the country.
This was carried over after the attainment of independence especially after 1963, when residents attempted to join with Somalia and formed a secessionist movement, which led to the Shifta War and declaration of a State of Emergency. This explains why unlike other Kenyans, residents of North Eastern Province must attach supporting documents to their applications for identity cards.
This is mainly attributed to the question of Somali refugees because it is almost impossible to differentiate between Somalis born in Kenya and those who may have migrated from Somali and other neighbouring countries like Ethiopia and Djibouti, leading to general suspicion by the Provincial Administration and registrars.
There have been cases of Somali refugees posing as genuine Kenyans so as to secure the national identity card.
This suspicion has bred resentments among genuine Kenyans residing in NEP Who feel they are treated like exiles in their own country as the process of vetting and registration of persons Kenya denies Kenyan-Somalis equal access to registration and acquisition of national IDs.
Registration of Persons Kenya – Screening the Nubians
Every person belonging to the Nubian community in Kenya has to be vetted; however, vetting committee members are Nubian elders. Nubians originated from the Nuba Mountains in the Sudan. They were brought to Kenya as soldiers by the British colonial government a century ago.
Today, there are over 100,000 Nubians living in Kenya. The Nubians are not classiﬁed among the recognised ethnic groups in Kenya. For this reason, all Nubians are vetted.
The registrars Work on the assumption that Nubians are foreigners unless proven otherwise.
The Government has argued that there are Nubians in Uganda and there are some in Tanzania and therefore Nubians should be vetted.
Immigration Kenya – Immigration Department in Kenya Contacts
Directorate of Immigration and Registration of Persons
Nyayo House 20th floor, Kenyatta Avenue/Uhuru Highway
P.O Box 30191,00100 Nairobi.
Tel: +254-20-2222022, +254-20-2217544, +254-20-2218833
Department of Immigration Services Kenya
Nyayo House 9th floor, Kenyatta Avenue/Uhuru Highway
P.O Box 30191,00100 Nairobi.
Tel: +254-20-2222022, +254-20-2217544, +254-20-2218833
National Registration Bureau
NSSF Building, Block B 8th Floor
P.O Box 57007,00200 Nairobi.
Tel: +254-20-2722526, +254-20-2720069
Fax number; 2716205
Department of Refugee Affairs
Castle Building, James Gichuru Road, Lavington
P.O Box 42227 -00100 Nairobi.
Tel No. +254-20-4348145
Department of Civil Registration
Hass Plaza 4th Floor, Lower Hill Road,
P.O Box 49179- 00100 Nairobi
Integrated Population Registration Services
Nyayo House 4th floor, Kenyatta Avenue/Uhuru Highway
P.O Box 30191 – 00100 Nairobi.
Tel: 2222022, 2217544, 2218833