Tragedies of the Stateless

Published: 10/Sep/2010
Source: Open Society Foundations

By Adam Hussein Adam

“Are my documents in order?” I asked the official. This was my fifth attempt in ten years to obtain a Kenyan passport. Now I was before the Criminal Investigations Department for an in-person “vetting.”

“Identification cards could be forged, and so people’s pictures,” was the official’s response. Of course, the vetting process, which has existed in Kenya for the last 20 years, targets only members of select ethnic, religious, and racial groups. As a fourth-generation Nubian—a group long discriminated against in Kenya—it was no surprise that I had been selected.

The government insists that the vetting process is a security measure that keeps the country from being infiltrated. But what has the vetting really achieved? And more importantly, what does it imply when people are qualified as individuals of a tribe rather that members of a nation?

Years of not being able to obtain a passport had taken a toll on my life. I lost out on job opportunities. I had to forfeit two scholarships. I wasn’t able to travel abroad to compete with my rugby team. I even had to change my career, all because the government wouldn’t issue me a passport.

The operative word in my life was “stateless.”

Read further on Open Society Foundations website.

Themes: Apatridie
Regions: Pan Afrique, Kenya
Year: 2010