Kenyan Citizenship For Sale!

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.]

One thought on “Kenyan Citizenship For Sale!

  1. The primary victim of these incompetencies and callous attitude by government agencies cannot write about it at this moment seeing as she’s really trying to get it sorted so that she can beat the deadline for submitting her passport for an overseas conference but I will. So she loses her ID in February and rushes to DC’s office in Westlands to have it replaced. “Madam, that will be Kes 300 for a replacement” she promptly pays and is given the waiting card et all and told to check after 2 weeks. Now we are in the sixth month and she is yet to get her hand on a single document to validate her citizenship. By this time we are obviously anxious and frustrated at the process so we try to enlist some outside assistance.

    cue; (enter the hyenas)

    After demanding an explanation why this replacement has taken the entire gestation period of a goat with a rabbit thrown in for good measure, the clerk says that there was a double application. So we ask them; double as in filling in the forms in duplicate or applying for 2 IDs which is which? He doesn’t bother with us and says “angalia next week” I ask around and get a friend of a friend who works with immigration whether he can assist. A day later he reports that, the serial numbers on the old ID and the newly re-applied one do not match and that could be the problem.
    Ok, solution?
    Return to the DC’s office in Westlands to have it sorted. The next day, it appears the jolly officer is the mood for a tingle, he checks and tells us that the fingerprints do not match with the ones used for the first ID.
    “Well sir, would you mind if we used a tracing paper to achieve that feat?”
    “No, not possible.”
    “Ok, was just checking.”
    Next we enlist the assistance of a somewhat senior AP lass; she tells us some officer is willing to help but he will need lunch.
    “Ok, we’ll grab some fish fingers at Greenview as soon as lunch come knocking agreeable?”
    “No. Not that lunch.”
    “Ok which restaurant would you prefer?”
    “Kitu kidogo.”
    “Is that in town? Upande gani?”
    “No he wants Kes 1,500 to sort it out for you.” Another officer clarifies
    This information is coming the morning after some politician says the the Kes 300 fee for a replacement ID will be waived so that all Kenyans get the chance to be heard and the other accompanying noises. We are running out of patience and out of time to submit all the documents for a month long conference/workshop that could prove defining for her career in the coming years because of a process that has been made exceedingly difficult with greedy officials lining the way there. Meanwhile, there is a lady at Nyayo House who says she can process for us the passport with a waiting card for only Kes 3,000 but it is no guarantee we will get it. That would work out to a total of Kes 7,500 to get a probable passport! Upon probing further we are told that the first ID re-application was indeed canned because it appeared like a double registry but now the serial number, fingerprints and lunch still need to be navigated for the ID to actually surface; information we are receiving from a bunch less than honorable fellas who seems to have picked a battle they are determined to win at all costs. She is ready to part with money for her to get some sort of recognition as a citizen and hopefully still make it for her conference but even then, the bribees want to dictate how, when and where this can happen. Is there any saving grace in this godforsaken process?

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