|Police have no right to arrest Kenyans who do not carry national identity cards.Registration of Persons and Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’ said the law only allowed police to demand that the ID be produced within a reasonable period of time.
“The law does not require you to walk around with an ID, which only confirms that you are a Kenyan, but not everyone knows that. The police have no right to harass Kenyans,” said the minister.
Contributing to a private members’ motion by Mr Ekwee Ethuro (Turkana Central, PNU) seeking that the ID and voter’s cards be combined into one document, the minister regretted that hundreds of innocent Kenyans were languishing in police cells for not carrying ID cards.
He said he would take the matter to the Cabinet, as the issues raised were relevant and urgent.
Said Mr Kajwang’, who is a lawyer: “We have many police cells that are full of such people… some magistrates are encouraging it. It is a way of harassing the public and it must stop.”
The minister, who is the Mbita MP, said he also did not understand why ID applicants from districts bordering neighbouring countries were forced to go there to be vetted by the chief.
He said this had been necessitated by the myth that such residents could be linked to terrorists. He cited North Eastern Province and parts of Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western provinces, saying these were some of the issues he would include in his reform agenda.
In a departure from past practice, the minister said that he would request a copy of Hansard so that he could study all the issues raised by the members and include them in his reforms agenda.
The minister noted that the Registration of Persons Act was last amended in 1982, and said he did not understand why one could not acquire an ID card until he or she was 18. The same law allows a 16-year-old to apply for a passport.
“I also don’t understand why the same law allows you to marry at 16 years, but bars one from getting an ID,” the minister said.