Kenya: Explain Huduma Namba for Kenyans to Accept It

20 November 2020

Finally, the government has started the roll-out of the Huduma Namba that has been dogged with controversy. Although the registration for the single identification card was launched last year with much fanfare, the public has been kept in the dark about its issuance. Inevitably, that elicited questions and conspiracy theories that threatened to undermine the public's confidence in it.

Some politicians cashed in on the delay to disparage the document as a tool for vote manipulation. Religious fanatics likened it to the biblical "number of the beast".

The introduction of the number was meant to consolidate citizens' records and make it a single document for identification in business and official transactions. It has been hailed as comprehensive and ultra-safe, enabling the government to weed out criminals and foreigners masquerading as Kenyans.

Bureaucratic red tape

For the citizens, the critical issue is smooth transition from the current ID card to the new one. Often times, accessing government documents is made difficult by bureaucratic red tape.

Many people experience difficulties in acquiring the ID and therefore locked out in carrying official transactions. This has to end. So far, the government has advised that citizens will be notified through mobile text alerts on when and where to pick the cards. That is quite encouraging.

However, the government must deal with legal and policy hurdles relating to Huduma Namba and ensure that the correct thing is done. It has been argued that the introduction of the new number was done without legal basis, forcing the government to publish a bill and table in Parliament to give the document the force of law. Thus, it behoves Parliament to prioritise debate and passage of the Bill.

The government should mount an aggressive public communication campaign to sensitise the public on the reason for transition to the new generation personal identification card.

It needs to assure the public of its legitimacy, validity and usefulness to stave off misinformation and propaganda.

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