A history of identity cards in Kenya

A blue passport, with the text "East African Community: Republic of Kenya", and the Kenyan crest with two lions and a shield and crossed spears(Photo via Wikipedia)

Passports are currently a hot topic in Kenya, where citizens are lining up for hours on end to replace their old travel documents before they cease to be valid for travel on September 1.  After that time, only new e-passports will be accepted.

At The Elephant, Juliet Atellah has a timely piece on the history of identity cards in Kenya.  She covers their evolution from tools of colonial social control for urban male laborers, up through the most recent attempts to create a unique numeric identifier that allows the government to link its identity records across different ministries (the Huduma Namba, or “service number,” system).  Well worth a read if you’re interested in Jame Scott’s ideas of social legibility.