Citizenship and Identity Documents in Kenya: Hamid’s Story

Hamid is of Somali origin, but was adopted by A Kenyan Nubian family. He is 22 years old and a resident of Makina in Kibera. To apply for an ID card he was asked to provide his birth certificate and school leaving certificate – which the Government then lost.

Hamid first applied for his ID card in 2011. He was asked to submit a range of original documents, including his birth certificate and even his school results slip for verification. Yet along the way, these original documents were lost by a government office. Hamid had trouble following up on his application and didn’t know what to do.

Hamid heard about the Nubian Rights Forum (NRF) paralegals from one of his neighbors who works with the organization. She invited him to come discuss his case. After meeting, NRF took up Hamid’s case.

His case was complex, so one of the project administrators also got involved in the first steps. NRF staff went with Hamid to two government offices to try to trace his documents. They had no luck. Next, the NRF team wrote a letter to the Director of Registration in Nairobi. The letter resulted in a meeting to negotiate a potential solution for Hamid.

Although the original documents could not be found, the Director suggested re-applying for an ID card using an affidavit prepared by Hamid’s adoptive mother as support. An NRF paralegal took Hamid first to discuss this with his adoptive mother, who agreed to support Hamid’s application. The next step was going to the Kibera Law Court to swear an affidavit at a cost of 1000 Kenyan Shillings.

Officials were often rude, harsh, and did not take his requests seriously. With the paralegals by his side, everything was different. With someone next to him, the government treated him with more respect.

The paralegal accompanied Hamid to the government office where he was required to appear before the vetting committee. The committee members asked Hamid where he lived, where he went to school, who his birth mother was, and whether he could speak Nubian. Hamid explained his situation and the committee approved his application. Hamid was told to come back after one week to provide his fingerprints and take a photograph. He did so, and submitted the application for his ID card.

Hamid now has a waiting card and renewed hope that he can one day use his ID card to attend college. In the meantime, he feels the waiting card could be protection against possible police harassment.

When he was attempting the process alone, Hamid said the government treated him “like a slave.” With community paralegals by his side, he felt dignity and respect. Hamid has told friends to take advantage of the paralegal support as well, saying “without them, we will not have another option.”

November 1, 2014 | Namati Author