Kenya ID System Conundrum


Marina Mengual

Taylor Mui ’20 shares her views on the Digital ID crisis in Kenya.

The Kenyan Government has taken measures with a goal of supposedly bettering their governmental system. However, the ignorance of the situation perpetuated by the government  has been addressed by the public, both Kenyan citizens and informed outsiders. The backlash and challenge towards this new law has stalled the process, at least momentarily. According to the official plan, each Kenyan citizen is to obtain an identification number that would be referenced in nearly all legal proceedings. Theoretically, this system seems to provide not only efficiency, but also the acknowledgment of every legal Kenyan citizen. However, it hasn’t been referred to in the media as a scheme for no reason. 

The question on whether or not this act is constitutional has come forward and has caught the attention of human rights activists, who have adamantly fought for this project to be cancelled. This Biometric ID System was challenged in court. “Archaic colonial laws” have been in place for much of Kenya’s history and lawmaking. British colonial imperialism has made relations between Indian, Nubians, and those originating from Kenya very tense. The citizenship of these people has been questioned, and they have had a difficult time being accepted into society, based on the decisions of  British colonizers in their distant past. The idea that a country can base a governmental system on past prejudice and discrimination has sparked outrage and concerns.

Those located in the outskirts of big cities have less access to centers at which they could register. The system by which the Kenyan Government intended to rule the entirety of the country leaves out millions of people. It creates another hierarchy, and it will further polarize the ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in the country, making them practically invisible in the eyes of the government, and as a result, to Kenyan society. Taylor Mui 20’ said, “It’s difficult to comprehend a country’s mentality when making this kind of law that excludes so many.” A registration period was granted to people who were deemed “eligible,” which as previously stated, excludes many in a lower class economic status, those who live in distant areas, and those from different backgrounds. Rather than attempting to aid citizens who lack the resources to move forward with these plans, it seems as if this is being used as an advantage and exclusion point.

As of recently, the country’s high court has delayed the proceeding of the ID system. The future holds uncertainty and fear for millions of Kenyans. Ryan Caress ’20  wishes that the court will provide a legitimate and fair assessment. “I hope that other countries can perhaps put pressure on this injustice or that activists can prevent this from happening,” Caress said. DNA and GPS acquisition and placement into this system has also been denied as of now. 

The  National Integrated Identity Management System exists to supposedly aid the communication between public and government.The goal to minimize public issues such as fraud is a valiant effort, yet very poorly executed. “This wasn’t something that I was initially aware of, but as I researched the issue, it became increasingly clear that there are moral issues involved,” said Alexandra Sherman ’20. The understanding within a country to promote equality in its laws and systems is lacking. 

“This wasn’t something that I was initially aware of, but as I researched the issue, it became increasingly clear that there are moral issues involved,” said Alexandra Sherman ’20.