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Government changes tune over mandatory new IDs, Maisha cards

Registration for new IDs; Maisha number will no longer be mandatory according to Immigration and Citizen Services Principal Secretary Julius Bitok.

The administration of President William Ruto has changed its position on the need for all Kenyans to register for the Maisha Number’s unique identifier.

While commemorating World Identification Day at Nyayo Gardens in Nakuru, Immigration and Citizen Services Principal Secretary Julius Bitok said that Kenyans will be free to register for Maisha Numbers or to disregard them altogether.

Bitok who oversaw the mass registrations for birth certificates, national ID cards, and passports in Nakuru county, noted that the new registration system that also includes a birth-to-death unique identification number to be known as Maisha Namba will not be compulsory.

“I want to assure Kenyans that no one will be forced to take up Maisha Card. The current IDs will continue to be recognized as valid identification documents alongside the new card,” Bitok stated.

The latest pronouncements by the Principal Secretary are a departure from the previous assertions that it would be mandatory for every Kenyan to acquire a unique identifier.

Maisha Number, according to Biko, is intended to replace the present national ID card system and will offer its possessor more advantages. As a result, it will be crucial for all citizens.

The Principal Secretary claims that the new card will have better technological and security features. It will support a digital ID manner of identification, in contrast to the current IDs.

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The PS explained that the current ID number will transit to Maisha Namba. All newborns and those registering for IDs for the first time will be issued a lifetime Maisha Namba which will be the registration number for school, NHIF KRA, and other government services.

He also allayed fears that the new ID that is being introduced to comply with international standards of identification will burden Kenyans, noting that existing ID holders will not be subjected to fresh registration for biometrics.

“We want to make the transition as seamless and convenient as possible. We foresee a 3-5 years phase out of current IDs. But we are confident many Kenyans will embrace Maisha Card because of the benefits it will give them,” Bitok stated.

The system will also have an optional Digital ID, which will be a digital version of one national ID, available online and recognized as valid proof of identity.

“Kenya is a member of the East Africa Common Market Protocol that promotes electronic national ID cards conforming to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for travel documents,” he stated.

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