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Why Kenyans are queuing up to register for Huduma Namba

Saturday May 18 2019

Huduma Namba registration

Members of the public queue to register for Huduma Namba at the GPO Huduma Centre in Nairobi on May 17, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GABRIEL OGUDA
By GABRIEL OGUDA
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The government has insisted there will be no extension of the Huduma Namba registration past this Saturday, even though the court had ruled no deadline should be imposed on the exercise. You do not need to be a lawyer to know that something is amiss with this registration because the manner in which it is being rammed down our throats speaks to a motive more sinister than the snake in the Garden of Eden.

HIGH-HANDEDNESS

The easiest way to know that there is a silent hand in this hurriedly-patched project is to replay President Uhuru Kenyatta’s previous speeches on national issues. The President has always reminded us that Kenya is a nation guided by the rule of law and the fear of God — and for a practicing Roman Catholic who took an oath to protect us from harm’s way, we have always believed his every word.

But here is the Cabinet Secretary for Interior, Dr Fred Matiang’i, threatening God’s children that he will neither extend the Huduma Namba registration deadline nor entertain any requests to do so. You wonder why he is going against the President’s solemn covenant with Kenyans at a time like this when we badly need someone to cushion us from the vagaries of government high-handedness and uninformed roadside declarations.

If a member of the Cabinet can contradict the President on matters national interest, then Kenyans need to know if we should start lowering our expectations towards our President, because the President’s word is becoming hollower than an actor’s laugh.

When the court delivered its ruling last month, the government was ordered not to compel anyone to register for Huduma Namba and that the Huduma Namba should not be a precondition to the access of government services.

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IMPLICATIONS

We now know that this government only observes court rulings when it favours them because countless government officials have been on record threatening Kenyans with denial of government services if they don’t have the Huduma Namba registration slip.

The threats have ranged from obscenely bizarre to downright comical. One government official is quoted to have warned those who won’t have registered by deadline day that they shall be treated like foreigners. Another said their sim-cards will be switched off. Yet another even had the audacity to suggest arrest and deportation of non-compliant citizens.

All these threats are flying around after the National Assembly raised questions on the integrity of the company entrusted with the tender to house the Huduma Namba databank. They recommended that the company be blacklisted by the government for operating in Kenya without a licence and without a local representative as required by law.

When the government was asked to respond to this damning expose that has far-reaching implications on the safety and security of personal information, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Joe Mucheru, said the parliamentary report was inconsequential, and had the cameras not been recording you can bet he would have rolled his eyes in contempt.

This is the same foreign company which supplied the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with the dodgy 2017 elections backbone, and which keeps changing its corporate identity faster than a scared chameleon. Yet no one in the Executive finds it fit to listen to Parliament’s recommendation that the company be stopped from trading with the Government of Kenya until it is opened apart and the inside contents revealed.

GORY IMAGES

If the government, which swore to watch over the interest of ordinary Kenyans would treat a grave matter like this as casually as a shift-worker asking for time off at the last minute, then Kenyans are asking why there’s need to pay taxes to a government which keeps treating them like a stray dog in a village funeral. Kenyans are not asking for the moon, but a little empathy from a government out of touch with the reality.

No one wants a fight with the government, certainly not Kenyans in 2019. We are still smarting from the gory images of the Kenya Police stoning opposition supporters during that botched triumphant entry into Uhuru Park.

If the Kenya Police have no qualms stoning vehicles and shooting unarmed protesters at high noon and in full view of the international media, you wonder what the government can do with those who will refuse to register for Huduma Namba by deadline day.

This government has proven beyond reasonable doubt that it can follow up on its threats and it has no problems making life difficult for those contradicting the government stand on controversial national issues.

The reason you are seeing queues longer than the devil’s obituary is because Kenyans have been harassed by the government before and they don’t want to be victims again if they can avoid it.

Mr Oguda writes on topical issues; [email protected]

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