Huduma Namba Disenfranchises the Already Marginalized
By Mohamed Haji
The Kenyan government led by the Chief Minister Dr Fred Matiangi are very efficient! They managed to register 11 million Kenyans, according to the Chief Minister himself ( this is Goebbel’s version of the truth in some way but the number is close to hundreds of thousands) for the National Identification and Integration System (NIIMS) otherwise know as Huduma Namba that Kenyans on social media have dubbed Hujuma Namba, Marginalization Number etc! The drive by the government to register as many Kenyans as possible in the shortest possible time has raised Kenyans’ eyebrows. They are suspicious that the heightened interest from the powers-that-be to register all 35 million Kenyans in 45 days is beyond the government’s desire to provide the elusive services or address the insecurity challenge. Citizens are surprised that the same government could not register the same number of people for the age-old colonial ID card for 55 YEARS or indeed rollout more essential services with as much gusto. The people of Turkana and Northern Kenya in general are unreachable when it comes to ID cards registration or hunger outbreak but in 45 short days all the people plus the rest of the country’s 35 million can be reached for the NIIMs program! Kenyans are appalled by the absence of political will that is now aplenty for the huduma namba. They are asking why a similar intensity is not expended by the same government when it comes to building essential houses for the police or help the people of North Eastern Kenya who have been complaining from lack of ID cards and birth certificates for decades gain access to these essential documentations.
Why are nonagenarians like Charles Njonjo frothing for this number? What is in this number that all over a sudden the Railas, the Atwolis and the Njonjos have found the magic wand to wave to confine all the problems of this great nation to the dustbin of history? How is this number expected to fight terrorism, improve service provision and know the hungry in a remote corner of Turkana as well as rush the urgently required ration to the dying? 99-year old Sir Charles Njonjo registering for the NIIMS
Why are these elite elders competing over who can shout the loudest for this number? The 99 years old former Attorney General Charles Njonjo furiously said ”those who are against the number wapotee (to literary get lost). They should not register if they do not want but they will need it”. This is a clear threat from the former Moi’s powerful attorney General who has kept out of politics for close to 36 years at least publicly. Njonjo is not only a man of the system but one who identifies more with our colonial masters than with ordinary Kenyans in terms of taste, mannerism and dressing. What is this sudden interest in the wellbeing of the hoi poloi? Why does he so much care, all of a sudden, for these earthly beings and their services? Why is Wanjiku suddenly important to Sir Charles Njonjo?
The government is using the provisional administration (the county commissioners and chiefs) and Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) to drive the registration exercise. CAS are the equivalent of the old Assistant Ministers, positions thought to have been created not to add value to service provision but for political patronage. The county governments have largely been ignored in the drive. They are left to watch from the sidelines like a Marabou stock yearning for meat in a burial. Conspicuously absent from the drive too is the Deputy President.
What is this Huduma namba that the courts said is NOT mandatory and that services CANNOT be denied to those who do not have it, YET the ‘law abiding government’ through its chief minister says the opposite with impunity? What is this number that human rights organizations have strongly come against YET the President of the Republic comes out fuming that religious leaders must stop scaring people against registering for the number? What is this number that has not been in any party’s manifesto in the recently concluded elections and has not been debated let alone passed by any parliament that is of such momentous importance and urgency? Whatever happened to the constitution’s call for public participation and consultation? A billboard showing Odinga’s advert for the Huduma Namba’s Registration exercise
What is Raila’s interest in this exercise? What has he to gain from disenfranchising the already marginalized? What is so hugely beneficial in this number for him that he throws away all his past records of ‘defending the voiceless’? His former strategist Dr David Ndii criticized Raila for supporting the NIIMs saying the opposition leader has ”betrayed the cause”. Methinks, the government, at least the TNA wing, has suddenly found itself without opposition and are able to pass anything down our throats. They found themselves between a Deputy President too scared to scuttle his chances to succeed President Kenyatta and a perennial political entrepreneur who has thrown in the gauntlet to join his true political bedfellows. Many Kenyans who have projected their political aspirations on him are appalled by his new stance that he is no longer on their side. Raila now supports everything the TNA wing of the Jubilee government proposes including his trip with the president to China for a new shillings 300 billion SGR loan. Why has Raila all over sudden turned the enemy of the peasants who he identified with for close to 2 decades? Does he have an ideology or principles that define him or as the astute deal maker he has become, only looks at the side his bread is buttered?
In the mix of marginalizing the already sidelined service users, is the succession politics. The silence of the Deputy President, the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency, at least according to the constitution, is deafening. Why has he not supported the registration exercise? Why is the self-styled billionaire-hustler not saying a word for or against the number? The closest he has come to talk about the number is when the gabby octogenarian, Francis Atwoli, questioned his stand on the NIIMs program. After skipping the launch, registering for the number and saying little about it was his way of responding to Atwoli’s challenge perhaps. The DP sent his emissaries who questioned the process and not the principle of the NIIMS otherwise known Huduma Namba. The self-styled hustler has to realize that caution never wins one an election. Could he be making a mistake and letting the process loose in the hope of appeasing the status-quo? Yes, he is in part a man made by the system but he is no political royalty. He will not win by playing their game. He can only win by devising his own hustler game that he only ought to know how to play. The citizens are restive and unfortunately he remains to be the only alternative to the dynaties’ plot for power. May be a hoi poloi may appear on the political stage through a citizen revolt and sweep him to the sidelines. A remote chance given Kenyan’s disdain for action. Whatever time has in store for this country though, he currently stands a good chance to inherit the presidency as Raila, the oppositionist, reveals his true colours and joins the baronial dynasties of Kenyatta and Moi to keep the status-quo going. Kenya is at a crossroad, fortunately though I believe closer to a future that can reimagine true political freedom and economic emancipation. The vacuum the hutsler is angling to fill needs truer democrats with integrity. May be we need forces that will revive true leftist ideologies as an alternative to the hustler-dynasty duel. I digress….
And what are the computer imposed homeguards from Northern Kenya doing or at least saying about the Number? The best they could muster was to call for a press conference and confuse the electorates further. Instead of coming out against the rushed process that is sure to marginalize their people even more, they meekly said they support the government and will themselves register for the number but urged caution. If they were not consulted and doubt the intentions of the proponents of the number why not come clean and clear against it and tell their people not to register? Why are they not leading from the front? This more than anything else exposes their cowardice and selfish interest. As is usual, the powers-that-be may have told them behind curtains, that the Huduma Number will be, the-be-all and the end-all of all civic service including voting and hence flocking to register and flooding their tribesmen on the registration centers even when they know the detrimental impact of the number on the already marginalized.
The controversy surrounding the Huduma Number has been compounded by the court ruling and Human Rights organizations’ call against it. So why is the government vetoing all the voices against the number and not calling for consultation on the way forward? What is the rush and what deadline is the government trying to beat by forcing the number down our throats? There are no existing data protection laws in Kenya and the government does not have the capacity to protect the privacy of its citizens from rogue operators including organized crime. It is now rushing a bill through parliament. Why not wait until this bill passes into law?
This number stinks to the high heavens. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck. So let us either eat this duck together or dump it altogether.