Kenyans to apply for digital identity cards, says Ruto

Tuesday April 15 2014

By ERIC SHIMOLI
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By DPPS
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Kenyans will soon be issued with new identity cards in fresh registration.

The super ID card will contain biometric information — each person’s unique biological markers — as well as social security and national insurance details.

A database of the new information will be established to give the State accurate and detailed information about all citizens. This will also incorporate the record of births.

The exercise is intended to help in planning, elections and other administrative functions. It is also aimed at helping to identify foreigners, including terrorists and their sleeper cells, who may have corruptly bought national identification papers.

Use biometric machines

The new registration was announced by Deputy President William Ruto at a meeting with the commissioners from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

IEBC has some experience using biometric machines which it used to register more than 14 million voters for last year’s election.

Though the government is not openly saying it, the fresh registration is an admission that the current system, involving officials from the National Registration Bureau, has been abused and is a failure.

It is almost certain that the government is having difficulties establishing who is a genuine citizen purely on the basis of identification papers produced by the existing system.

Some of the illegal immigrants caught in the current security swoop have Kenyan ID cards and passports but their details are not in the national database.

It has been claimed that immigration and provincial administration officials at all levels have enriched themselves by selling these sensitive documents while compromising national security.

In the 1990s President Daniel arap Moi decreed that people from border districts were to be vetted before being issued with national ID cards or passports.

The system was widely abused, caused resentment and was discarded.

The fresh registration is expected to start as early as July.

Ministries of Information, Communication and Technology and Interior and Coordination of National Government will lead the exercise.

The registration will help identify, once and for all, those holding fake identification papers.

Said Mr Ruto: “In order to address the prevailing security challenges, we intend to consolidate all current registers of persons into a single national register with accurate and relevant information.”

He said there were gaps in different registers currently being held by the government.

He gave the example of the missing links in birth registration, Personal Identification Number, Public Service Commission, National Social Security Fund and National Hospital Insurance Fund registers and voter registration among others.

The Deputy President was meeting IEBC bosses to seek their input on how best the government can register all Kenyans.

Commission chairman Issack Hassan said the proposed registration was an important undertaking that would make the work of IEBC easier and also cut costs.

“With an accurate and credible database an electoral commission will not need to conduct a parallel voter registration as it can draw information from the national database,” Mr Hassan said.

The IEBC chairman said digital registration was the practice in developed democracies.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the new register would guide the government in planning as well as help the IEBC to conduct future elections since they would have readily available information.

Credible digital database

“This is your know-your-citizen campaign that will help us develop a reliable master database that will help us in national planning and security,” Dr Matiang’i said.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku said registration of persons was an important component in tackling security challenges.

“We must know who is a Kenyan and who is not. We can only do this from a credible digital database,” Mr Lenku said.

A technical team from the two ministries is working on the modalities of rolling out the registration programme.

It is anticipated that the registration will take up to six months once the government has the required infrastructure in place.