Ghost Kenyans: Registration of Persons

by on Apr.21, 2014, under Politics & Patriotism


Imagine an organisation that does not know the exact number of employees it has, worse still, if it is not aware of who is an employee and who is not. This is the genesis of the ghost workers menace. If anyone could walk into an army barracks, take a desk and begin to work on their laptop without any officer intercepting them that could be a disaster for the army and the nation.  This is the scenario with our borders; people just walk into the organisation called Kenya and some go to the extent of abusing our leniency. The porous borders and inept law enforcers have left Kenya as the haven to all sorts of foreigners. A comprehensive undertaking by the government to reform the nation’s registration systems and revamp the border security is a long overdue exercise.

I look forward a day when the government will be in position to positively identify all the persons within our borders, when the government can account for all Kenyans. Every Kenyan and our visitors should be known to the state. Just like all organisations know their employees, so should organisation Kenya know its people. This will go a long way in national planning and provision of services. Secondly, if registration is done well and the data used intelligently it would be an excellent tool for maintaining security in our borders.

Any patriot cannot oppose an efficient and effective person’s registration exercise because its advantages are obvious to any thinking mind. It is given that the ‘Jiggered Mind’ (Stanley Kamau’s phrase for “selfish and little minded people”), will not easily support this exercise. Some people due to political and other selfish reasons are opposed to jigger eradication. These and other likeminded people will oppose anything that does not benefit them directly, especially politically. The Giggered Minds are heartless pretenders who craft wise and populist sound bites to confuse people that certain projects should not be undertaken. These are the people who argue that our children should not have laptops because they do not have classrooms yet their children not only have laptops but also have iPads. The registration of person’s team should ignore such voices.

Beyond the insecure jiggered minds, we should have constructive discussions on this exercise given the importance of the same. The discussions should not be about why persons should register but on how, when and whom should be registered. This is the discussion that this article seeks to contribute towards.    

 We Can Do It Well

This one must be done well; we cannot to afford to see some of the missteps that we experienced during voters’ registration. It is my prayer that after this exercise the government can authoritatively tell the number of all Kenyans, the deaths, the births, the age brackets and the gender. The government and all Kenyans of good will should not rush this exercise. Proper planning should be done and it should be backed by enactment of relevant laws. We should not plan forever so that nothing gets done, but we can plan for six months or less, so that we do a good job. Some of the things that we need to think about in the planning phase are listed below, the list is not exhaustive since it is one mind that has put it together and it is my hope that it will be improved by Kenyans of good will.

 I.                   The Process

Products are as good as the process. Given the importance of the registration, the nation must have a water tight process for the nationwide one-off registration and the subsequent incremental registrations (birth, death and immigrants). Some of the considerations as part of the process are: -

  1. Proper planning
  2. Civic education (the education should not only cover the one-off-nationwide registration but it must instil in the populace a culture of registering all births and deaths)
  3. A credible team (incorruptible people to conduct the registration)
  4. Proper tool (Information Technology, Precise Forms)
  5. Mechanism of securing the registration data
  6. Pilot registration
  7. The actual registration
  8. Data clean-up/verification
  9. Continuous registration of births, deaths and immigrants.

 II.                Data Security

We all dread to see our information in the wrong hands; the government must assure the nation that personal information will never get into the wrong hands. It will be absurd that the registration will be anything apart from digital, but it will be even more disastrous if proper security measures are not put in place. Kenya cannot afford a replica of Wikileaks, Snowden and the US retailer Target Corporation.  The government needs to ensure that people’s personal information does not get into the following hands: -

  1. Data hackers
  2. Corrupt officials
  3. Unauthorized persons

 III.             Persons Registration Related Activities

Before the one-off nationwide registration, the government needs to rethink what will become of activities like voters’ registration. Will some of the activities be continuous and automatic, or will status quo remain? Which activities should be automatic, so that we can save time and money? We need to decide whether once registered, one only needs to show up at the registration centre to pick their passport or do they have to undergo further screening? Some of the persons’ registration related activities that we need to harmonise are: -

  1. Voters’ registration (automatic once registered)
  2. Passport issuance (automatic once registered)
  3. ID card (automatic if you have birth certificate)
  4. The (every 10 years) census, maybe still important for audit of existing data and to check unregistered birth, death and illegal immigrants.

 IV.              Possible Legal and Infrastructural Changes

The government must put in place legal and infrastructural changes which will mid-wife the registration process. The changes should take into consideration long-term needs and country’s developmental directions. Some of the possible changes are: –

  1. Legal – we need to repeal all the laws on registration of persons and enact one law that will serve among other things to establish: -

a.       A national registry

b.      Staffing of the registry (it should be clear about the characters of the persons who can work at the registry, the conduct of the registry’s employees and the heavy penalty for interfering with lawful registration)

c.       A water tight process of registration

d.      The penalty that will be due to any person (whether employee of the registry or not) promoting or facilitating any illegal registration

e.       Data security

f.        Data users (determine who are authorized to access registration data and the level of access). The users may be government agencies like police or private organisations like banks.

  1. Infrastructure (the various government departments involved in registration of persons should be restructured to embrace the new registration changes).

 V.                 The Special Groups of People

Some groups of people may not show up at the registration centres so we have to think of innovative and effective ways to reach them. These groups include but are not limited to the: -

  1. Elderly
  2. Sick in hospital
  3. Prisoners
  4. Kenyans in the diaspora
  5. Babies/ more so deep in the rural areas
  6. Rural folks
  7. Children in the children’s homes
  8. Homeless on the street both young and old

 VI.              Registration and Identification in Other Countries

Kenya has had its own share of ID cards used badly; during the colonial period Africans were made to carry IDs, “Kipande”, this led to the locals being discriminated against. During the post-election violence of 2007/2008, having an ID card with the “wrong” name for the area that you were in could mean life and death. This scenario has repeated itself in many countries; the ID card was used to identify the Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda. In the past, IDs were used to enforce social class in Japan, although now it is a different story. Due to the tinted historical image that is associated with Identification Cards, the Americans are opposed to the idea of ID cards. As a result they use various forms of identification and population tracking: –

  1. Social Security Numbers (SSN), serves as the de facto ID although the American law prohibit the use of SSN for identification
  2. Drivers’ license (although not everybody has a DL), all the information on DL is stored in a national data base
  3. Passport for those who want them
  4. Photo ID, in some states for those who want them
  5. Research by institutions
  6. Once in ten years’ national census

 Many countries have robust ID systems. Despite the past challenges, they are still using the identification cards to enhance security and national planning. Some of the countries are: –

  1. South Africa (The birth certificates contains your ID number, at the age of 16 you get your ID from the authorities using the ID number on the birth certificate)
  2. China (in the past, the birthplace and ID could be used to restrict your rights)
  3. Japan (used to enforce social classes in the past, but now serves as a comprehensive ID system)
  4. Taiwan (the ID system is very comprehensive and so illegal immigration is very difficult).

 VII.           Suggestion and Recommendations

  1. Arrangements should be made so that any child born anywhere in Kenya is registered within seven days; it should be thorough that even a child born on streets must be registered.
  2. Death registration must be made mandatory
  3. Let the IDs have no name but have a unique number, in any case a name is just a number expressed alphabetically (This may reduce tribalism and possible discrimination that associates one’s names to a certain tribe).
  4. Since elected leaders’ actions affects all citizens then it should be mandatory to vote (voting is a civic duty), hence voter’s registration should be automatic.
  5. Give a grace period to those in the diaspora to register in the next five years – beyond that they should be registered as immigrants.

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