Edwin O. Abuya
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Registering persons at risk of statelessness in Kenya
Solutions or further problems?
in Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship
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In January 2019, the Kenyan government rolled out a new ‘National Integrated Identity Management System’ for registering all residents in the country. This is commonly referred to as the ‘huduma namba’. Under the terms of this programme, all individuals residing in the country are required to register their details on a central database. They would then be given a unique number. This chapter focuses on how members of the Shona community in Kenya who are at risk of statelessness engaged with the huduma namba and their experiences of doing this. The chapter finds that some such individuals believed that registering with the huduma namba would provide access to some form of documentation which would help them to access rights and perhaps eventually citizenship. Despite this hope, the research for this chapter found that the huduma namba programme was problematic at several levels. In the first place, persons at risk of statelessness encountered challenges in their attempts to register for a huduma namba. Further, using specific rights – namely, access to employment and the rights of persons with disabilities – as examples, the chapter demonstrates that, in the end, this project created problems, rather than providing solutions. To conclude, the chapter proposes specific measures, which the government can take, to meet challenges that registration processes such as these present. It provides lessons both for the Kenyan context in particular and for wider discussion about the use of documentation programmes to address the challenges associated with statelessness.

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