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Kenya issues digital ID cards to minority community after decades of ordeal

Kenya issues digital ID cards to minority community after decades of ordeal

Members of a ‘stateless’ community in Kenya known as the Shona have received digital ID cards from the Kenyan government, ending approximately five decades of their statelessness.

Kenyan outlet The Star, in a feature report, chronicles the ordeal that many of the Shona community members have gone through over the years, living without an official identification.

They are reported to have received their digital ID cards on July 28, to the excitement of many.

According to the report, the Shona, who are descendants of missionaries of the Church of God, came into Kenya from then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). They have either found it difficult seeking medical attention in hospital or have faced arrest and other forms of molestation from security officers for lack of an ID card.

There are an estimated 2,600 Shona people living in about 900 households in Kenya as children of missionaries who came into the country in the 1960s, The Star writes. They held Rhodesian passports when they came, but when Kenya gain independence in 1963, the Shona were given a two-year period to establish Kenyan IDs, the media states. But many of them missed the opportunity to do so for various reasons. Many of them have since lived without official identification, although they have made some efforts since then, still without success.

Some of them told The Star they lived without legal ID for years because their parents were never identified. They said in order to have access to certain public services such getting their children enrolled for school, seeking medical attention in hospital, carrying out certain business transactions or having access to other public services, they were forced to borrow ID cards from those who possessed them.

The Star mentions a report by the Kenya Human Rights Commission confirming cases of ordeal by many Shona women after giving birth in hospitals. It also alludes to the Commission as saying that many Shona children actually attend primary school but are unable to take the First School Leaving Certificate examination because this requires birth certificates – which they do not have.

A 2018 World Bank analysis found that a birth certificate is required to enroll in school and write examinations, and the national ID is required for “virtually all government services,” as well as mobile phone and financial services accounts.

Kenya is implementing a digital ID scheme dubbed the Huduma Namba, but there are many concerns from rights groups around the project including the fact that it could exclude millions of people, especially in minority communities.

Recently, a publication by Research ICT Africa suggested that Kenya focuses registration for the digital identity project among poor and marginalized people who are said to constitute the largest percentage of those who lack legal identification documents in the country.

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