If you have a lot of relatives and/or fairly ambitious parents, you could end up suffering from docu-schitzophrenia, a common ailment characterized by all your documents bearing different names. It comes from the African tradition of giving your child a name based on their date/place/time/season of birth, closest revered relative, and/or whatever you’re watching at the time.
The result: kids with names like Alejandro Kemboi Makmende Lady Gaga Balotelli West End McOjwang’. Subsequently, depending on the place, situation, and amount of space on the registration form, you have a lot of different name combinations on your official documentation.
A few years ago, I went to Nyayo House to have my passport names aligned with my ID and birth certificate. The nice man at the counter charged me 500/=, then used a black felt pen to manually make the changes on my passport. The changes were reinforced with an official-looking stamp which the border guards at Namanga insisted was fake. But then again, they also thought my National ID had expired, since the date on it was 1981.
Anyway, this morning, I made a second trip to Nyayo House. My baby girl will soon be taking a school trip, and I wanted to make sure the names on her passport match the names on her report form. I’d previously made a similar trip to Sheria House, (where the process took five months) so I expected a bit of …
After explaining my request to the lady at the counter, she informed me that they do not make changes on passports. I was going to say they made the exact same change on my own passport a few years ago, but thought it might not be the best idea, so I left. Hopefully, my baby doesn’t get stuck at some immigration office somewhere for not quite knowing her own name.
While I was at Nyayo House, I noticed that passport fees have been revised. It will now cost me a minimum of 4,500/= to get my passport renewed. Mutilated passports cost 10,000/= to replace, while lost passports cost 12,000/=. Also, if you lost your citizenship for some reason, it will cost you 5,000/= to regain it. Citizenship by marriage? 30,000/=. Oh, and it will cost you 20,000/= to formally declare that you’re tired of being Kenyan.
I had considered renewing my passport, which expires in October this year, but now I think I’ll wait until I have an actual trip. After all, 4,500/= is a lot to spend on a document that will just sit in my handbag for five years. Plus, according to the chart, it will only take me 10 days to get it processed [*insert appropriate reaction here*]. Luckily for me (and for my baby) we both got our passports as students, so we didn’t have to endure the bureaucracy involved. I’m not looking forward to renewing it myself, so I’ll put it off as long as I can.
Anyway, I got to wondering why it costs so much to get one in the first place. After all, a passport is simply a declaration of citizenship. It seems wrong to have to pay so much for the privilege of leaving my country. Still, I suppose if one can buy a plane ticket and pay for a visa, then one can pay a bit more for the passport that lets you actually board the plane. And I suppose the assumption is if you can’t afford a ticket, then you don’t really need a passport. But I can’t help thinking every citizen has a right to a document that, you know, proves you’re a citizen.
A few days ago, I heard a politician waive the 300/= fee for new IDs. He said everyone over 18 deserved to have their documents in time for elections. Seeing as it took 7 months to replace mine, I’m thinking they might need a waiver on the waiting time as well. Plus, I wonder if anything would prompt a waiver on the 4,500/= [not to mention the bureaucracy] required to get yourself a passport. Maybe it’s an undercover tactic to keep us patriotic. After all, we’ve got to love a country that we can’t leave, yes?
[NB: Kindly note the generous use of sarcasm.]