Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The registration of Kenyans in the northern frontier districts took centre-stage in Parliament on Wednesday, with MPs pointing to open discrimination of Kenyan Somalis in the issuance of National Identity cards. Mr Mohammed Hussein (Mandera East, ODM), Ms Sophia Abdi Noor (nominated, ODM), Mr Mohammed Dor ( nominated, ODM)  and Dr Boni Khalwale (Ikolomani, new Ford Kenya) were up in arms that the vetting process in North Eastern Province was meant to make it difficult for residents to get the national IDs. The MPs said that it was wrong for the locational vetting committees composed of elders and security officials, to thoroughly vet applicants at the grassroots, only for their applications to be rejected in Nairobi.

“Is the minister in order to tell us that a machine in Nairobi can reject applications after they
have been approved by the vetting team?” posed Ms Sofia.

Nominated ODM MP Sophia Abdi Noor joined other legislators in protesting that the vetting process in North Eastern province is meant to make it difficult for residents to get the national IDs

Immigration assistant minister Francis Baya was hard-pressed to explain to Parliament why the government was strict on northern Kenya residents and not in other districts. He said that of the 9,320 applications made since 2008,  a total of 2,013 had been rejected because the applicants’ names appeared in the refugee databases maintained by the United Nations.

Mr Baya said some Kenyans are forced to masquerade as refugees so as to get food rations and some money; benefits only accorded to the refugees. On this, Ms Sofia said that it happens as the residents run away from the biting drought that hits the area every year.
But even so, she said, the government was at liberty to cancel the UN refugee status for all applicants whose applications have been certified by the vetting committee, instead of rejecting the applications altogether.

Mr Baya replied: “Those Kenyans who are sure they are Kenyans and that their applications have been rejected will be assisted.” He denied the existence of a policy skewed towards the Somalis saying all border districts faced the same vetting exercise.

However, the chairman of Parliament’s Committee on security, Mr Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon, ODM) and Dr Khalwale accused the minister of misleading the House on the matter.
Mr Kapondi said that refugees were getting IDs due to corrupt officials, yet genuine Kenyans were denied their cards. He gave an example of the Daadab camp.

On Tuesday, Parliament heard that the Ministry had a countrywide shortage of 500 senior registration officials.

But even with this shortage of personnel, Mr Baya said the Ministry delivered according to the service charter, which stipulates that the people in arid and semiarid lands have to get their national identity cards within 38 days after sending in their application. The assistant minister made the remarks after Samburu East MP Raphael Letimalo (ODM) sought to know why the posts of District Registrar of Persons and the District Civil Registrar were still vacant. The MP complained that the application process was “slow” and that there was a very high number of rejected applications. He asked the assistant minister to consider decentralising the services from Nairobi.

However, Mr Baya remained firm that the rejected applications arose if fingerprints could not be read and if the photos could not be processed on the machines at headquarters. “The processing system is so complex that it needs to be centralised for cost-effectiveness. The specialised equipment used also means that it will be expensive to decentralise because of the security and personnel cost associated with the machines,” said Mr Baya.