All Kenyan citizens, irrespective of their current domicile, are to be enrolled in the national integrated identity management system, popularly called “Huduma Number.” The purpose of this registration as has been explained, is to develop a digital integrated database to enhance provision of government services.
Kenyans in Diaspora are required to register for a Huduma number. In America, Kenyans will have to travel to the Washington DC embassy which is the only station providing the service. According to estimates provided by the US Census Bureau, there are 160,000 Kenyans living in America, and spread out across all 50 states. With just over 30 days remaining before June 20, the deadline set for Diaspora to have registered, one can assume that the Kenya Embassy in DC will be overwhelmed; to the extent of having to deal with over 4,000 applicants on a daily basis. Will this not bring chaos to DC!
It has been mentioned in some quarters, including by Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i that Kenyans (in Diaspora) without a Huduma number will not be in a position to enjoy government service.
In 2017, Kenyans living in Europe and America were onlookers as other Kenyans in the motherland went to the voting booths. The inability to facilitate voting for Kenyans in the aforementioned geographical regions was excused to the unavailability of resources. Needless to mention, it is a nightmare replacing a lost Identity Card, as one is required to jump through many prohibitive hoops. In addition, the government on the one hand requires Kenyans in Diaspora to have the new generation passport; on the other hand, the foreign missions do not have the capacity to process these new passports. When the Cabinet Secretary talks about denying services to non-compliant Kenyans in Diaspora, the majority are yet to experience government services! You cannot deny what has been non-existent.
With only one center processing the Huduma Number applications in a vast America, this will end up being an expensive process for many Kenyans. Take the case of Peter for example. He lives in Anchorage-the capital of Alaska- with his wife and three children. To apply for the Huduma number, Peter’s family of five will have to fly from Achorage to Washington DC., spending close to $6,000 (Ksh 600,000) for this trip. Is the Huduma number worth all this? Are there no better ways to facilitate this registration?
The current Huduma number application process feels like the government is punishing its own citizens in Diaspora, the same community that sends billions of shillings back home in economic remittances. Think of Kenyans in Diaspora who are dealing with urgent and expensive immigration case. in a sense, the government is asking these Kenyans to dig deeper into their pockets for something that given their current (immigration) circumstances, is of zero value.
We can do better.