In what could be the biggest investment by the State to curb terrorism and insecurity, the Government now intends to register all Kenyans afresh in a national digital database. Making the announcement yesterday, Deputy President William Ruto said this would be the right step to assist the Government in addressing insecurity and for purposes of national planning.
The database would contain biometric details of all persons (40 million-plus Kenyans), land, establishments and assets, according to the Deputy President. Ministries of Information, Communication and Technology and Interior and Coordination of National Government would spearhead the exercise. The fresh registration would be used to identify persons holding forged or fake identification documents, according to Ruto.
The exercise means, several official identification documents held by Kenyans would be consolidated into one. Ruto said: “In order to address the prevailing security challenges, we intend to consolidate all current registers of persons into a single national register, with accurate and relevant information.” Ruto said there were gaps in the different registers currently being held by the Government. He gave the example of the missing links in birth registration, Personal Identification Number (PIN), Public Service Commission, National Social Security Fund and National Hospital Insurance Fund registers and voter registration among others.
He spoke when he met commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to seek their input on how best the Government can register all Kenyans. The Government consulted the Commission because it has the technical expertise on registration matters gained from using biometric voter listing in the run-up to the 2013 General Election.
The IEBC team, led by chairman Isaak Hassan, said the proposed registration is an important undertaking that would make the work of IEBC easier and also cut costs. “With an accurate and credible database, an electoral commission will not need to conduct a parallel voter registration as it can draw information from the national database,” Hassan said. The IEBC chairman said digital registration was the practice in developed democracies.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the new register would guide the Government in planning as well as help IEBC in planning future elections since they would have readily available information. “This is your know-your-citizen-campaign that would help us develop a reliable master database to help us in national planning and security,” Matiang’i said. Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku said registration of persons was an important component in tackling security challenges.
“We must know who is a Kenyan and who is not. We can only do this from a credible digital database,” the Interior CS said. A technical team from the two ministries is working out modalities of rolling out the registration programme. It is anticipated the registration would take a period of up to six months once the Government has the required infrastructure in place. The DP’s revelation comes in the wake of heightened operations by security agencies to weed out illegal immigrants believed to be the cause of apparent insecurity in the country.
Last week, Interior Cabinet Secretary ole Lenku, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo and Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo disclosed that at least 4,000 people had been arrested in the ongoing crackdown dubbed Operation Usalama Watch. The operation, involving more than 6,000 police and elite officers, started one week ago following a wave of terror attacks, including last September’s Westgate mall siege and the recent blasts at Eastleigh and Likoni, which have been blamed on a Somali militant group, the al Shabaab.
The operation has mainly been taking place in Eastleigh and other areas in Nairobi and Mombasa, though last week, ole Lenku denied Somalis were targeted, insisting it is taking place countrywide. Over the weekend, some 60 suspects were being held at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport waiting to be deported in the ongoing security operation aimed at flushing out illegal immigrants.
So far over 100 have been deported to Mogadishu. The government has maintained that the operation would continue with an aim of arresting illegal immigrants and it would expand from Nairobi to other counties. Iringo said they were now seeking to move further afield from the capital in their search for foreigners who are in the country illegally.
“They (police) will move to all parts of the country because we understand the illegal immigrants have moved from areas with intensified (police) attention,” he said. And on Saturday, Kimaiyo led a group of diplomats from the US, UK and other nations for an inspection of the Kasarani holding centre where he said they would not be distracted from the operation because of the “noise” being made by some politicians.