Affordable legal identifiers citizens’ right

EAC-Kenya Passport

A Kenya Gazette Notice reviewed charges of critical documents like identity cards, passports and government staff badges.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Every Kenyan deserves recognition as a legal entity, a right underscored by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The surge in fees for identifiers such as birth certificates, national identity cards, passports and death certificates, as indicated in a recent gazette notice, directly contradicts this goal and raises concerns about the government’s commitment to Kenyans.

These identifiers, which are vital for education, financial engagement, refugee status, voting rights, inheritance and travel, should be issued at minimal or zero cost to ensure universal accessibility.

The escalating fees not only hinder citizens’ access to them but also defy international declarations, including Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The ramifications of lacking these identifiers are severe—including restricted education, financial exclusion, refugee status denial, voting rights deprivation, inheritance rights denial and limited travel access.

Recognising the paramount importance of identifiers, it is crucial to advocate their accessibility with ease.

This prompts reflection on whether government institutions should solely validate one’s identity, given concerns about irrational behaviour and failures in centralised systems.Considering the drawbacks of the current system, exploring decentralised alternatives like the self-sovereign distributed identity system on the blockchain becomes crucial.

This ensures tamper-proof security, enhances privacy and empowers individuals to retain control over their identities in a virtual black box.

The removal of intermediaries in verification not only increases efficiency but also leads to cost savings.

It’s time Kenyans asserted ownership of their identities and question the government’s motive for unreasonably increasing identifier fees, which seems to defy the noble objectives of providing legal identity for all.

- Ndabari Njenga, Nairobi