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Why is politics mingling with national ID registration?

10th February 2013
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Editorial Cartoon

As President Jakaya Kikwete launched the national identification project on Thursday, it seemed he touched off hopes and assurances in many quarters which have little to do with identity cards per se.

One newspaper said in banner headlines that this project is the ‘medicine’ for the presidential run for 2015, intimating that there would no longer be the use of voter registration cards but national IDS. In that manner does this change the way election nomination is conducted, or improve chances of victory of the ruling party or any other, and is there no possibility that quarrels may arise from such disputes?

One of the major reasons for the issuing of national identity cards is now said to relate to voting use in the next general elections, where the use of voter registration cards will be prohibited.

This seems like it is a bullfight for territory and authority when it comes to identification, as each sphere of public life is governed by specific rules, and voting as such has rules of eligibility of voting, and even place where one has been registered, etc. It does not seem that the use of national identity cards for omnibus purposes is helpful, as in that case it could also replace a driving license, a birth certificate, or a diploma certificate.

NIDA director general Dickson Maimu made that announcement in the presence of the president, which was also out of order, as the manner in which elections are conducted has a specific guiding legislation, The Elections Act of 1985. Unless there has been presented in Parliament specific amendments in view of provision of national identity cards, and legislators debate the merits of using such cards instead of specific election registration, a national organ can’t supersede all others because it is coming up with a magic card, national IDs. In that case the supposed annulment may be ineffective, or defective in law.

Whether MPs would accept such amendment or the government would forced to withdraw it is open to speculation, but the manner it would be hyped suggests that it could also provide ammunition for its being rejected by legislators. Why should provision of national IDs be seen as some magic solution to contentions for the presidency in 2015, unless someone seeks to disenfranchise some people lacking such cards, as issuing them will be slow and fraught with contentions? So far hardly anyone carries the cards despite queuing up for days mid last year, and all of us are supposed to have the cards mid-2015.

For some reasons as well it is evident that the project itself could prove a big ‘vacuum cleaner’ for the national treasury since its appetite for gobbling up finances seems to be limitless. When the project came up we were told that it would cost a tidy three billion shillings, and now this seems to have been spent and new money is sought via dark alleys.

The president said in the launching that he had already talked to the Minister for Finance and his Permanent Secretary “to ensure that the problem of money does not stifle realization of objectives in this exercise that is vital to the nation.” In how many other development projects or national needs does the president talk to the Treasury to open barrels of cash?

When bureaucrats often with scant accountability for expenditures are assured personally by the president that “cash will be no problem,” precisely what is the motivation for diligence, if finishing their budgeted funds and not deliver shall not be an issue?

And when national authorities issue some blanket clearance for any such expenditure, shall the Controller and Auditor General be capable of scanning all relevant expenditures or it will be part of a consolidated fund process that has merely superficial audit?

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY