President William Ruto's administration has changed its stance on the requirement for all Kenyans to register for Maisha Number's unique identifier.
While marking the World Identification Day at Nyayo Gardens in Nakuru, Immigration and Citizen Services Principal Secretary Julius Bitok stated that Kenyans will be at liberty to register for Maisha Number or to ignore it 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 recognised 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.
However, Biko maintained that Maisha Number is designed to replace the current national ID card system and will have more benefits to the holder, as such, it will be very important for all citizens.
According to the Principal Secretary, the new card will include superior security and technology features. Unlike the current IDs, it will also support a digital ID mode of identification.
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 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 recognised 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.