francis sakwa

Activist Francis Sakwa being man-handled by police officers

Boniface Mwangi, a photojournalist and activist was this week arrested by prison warders patrolling the streets of Nairobi for not having an identity card (ID). He actually had the requisite document but refused to show it to them because it is not a must that you show it, but need to produce it to have it and when requested, produce it. The same applies to a driving license.

Mr. Mwangi narrated this story on his Facebook account and comments from the post show that many Kenyans have at one point or another been held, taken to a police station, or let go, depending on how the person argues for their freedom.

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From the post, Kenyans of different walks of life took the opportunity to share their experiences. See some sampled comments from over 250 comments from the post

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Do Kenyans know their rights?

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Perhaps Boniface Mwangi is doing a good job in highlighting these issues.

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Prison officers do have some powers to perform some police officers’ duties but not unfettered.


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More crucially is for Kenyans to understand rights of an arrested person.

However, lawyer Mugambi Laibuta weighed in on the matter, arguing that Kenyans are taking the issue out of hand.

There is no law stating that someone must carry their identity card. However, Kenya like any nation in the world, you are expected to carry an ID card to identify yourself. This applies to both Kenyans and non-Kenyans. The reasoning here is that you can be assumed to be an illegal immigrant hence you need proof.

Mugambi also stated that there is no law that compels a person to produce an ID card 24 hours after being requested by an enforcement officer; police or prison officers. Prison officers have been deployed in the streets of Nairobi to help in the curbing of insecurity in the city.

But for Soyinka Lempaa, a lawyer, someone is supposed to walk with some form of documentation, which also includes a photocopy of an ID card and where they do not have it, provide it within 24 hours.

The expectation that you have to show an ID card applies when you enter a building or institution that requires it, including security installations.

Lempaa further weighed in on what happens if you do not have it

The police should arrest you when they have reasonable suspicion that you are not a Kenyan.

This reasonable requirement is perhaps what many feel the police will never be. As seen in the comments from Boniface Mwangi’s post, many require to pay off their way to freedom. For some like in Eastleigh, Nairobi this is a daily occurrence and perhaps as Lempaa argues, the reason could be on suspicion of being alien in the country.

Lawyer Edward Oonge, known for helping in the release of Allan Wadi from jail stated that not caring an identity card is not a crime. He says law enforcement officers can request one to produce an identification card and when you do not have it, should allow for time to produce it.

Law enforcement officers can request you to provide an ID if you are not carrying it. If they have reasonable grounds to believe that you do not have it or are alien, they can hold you until you figure out your way (like by calling someone to bring it to you), and show it to them and you will be released.

Police spokesman Charles Owino did not respond to calls or texts to comment on the matter. Should he get back, we shall update the post accordingly.

There is a grey area on the requirement to produce an identification within 24 hours as some have argued. However, what seems to be the best way out is to carry it at all times and if not, talk politely to the law enforcement officers about you producing it. Hopefully, you do not have to part with a bribe to be let go.