New ePassport Processing Centres to be Established. Is Berlin among them?

File photo of the exterior of the Kenyan Embassy in Berlin offices.

In a video that went viral over the weekend, Matiang’i the CS of Interior and Coordination of National Government, encouraged Kenyans around the world to get the new ePassport to avoid the last minute rush, we as Kenyans tend to love. He added that there would be eight new passport processing centres: four in Kenya; two in Europe; two in the USA and one in the Middle East – which amounts to nine and not eight centres.

Now what got everyone excited was when he named Berlin, London and Washington DC, as examples of new centres yet to be opened. 

Well, I would not be too quick to celebrate this development and here are my reasons why:

First, this announcement was NOT an official announcement, it was more of a roadside declaration. Other than that video being shared on WhatsApp and Facebook, there isn’t a single official document from that ministry that shares those same comments.

Secondly, even the Kenyan media seems to be completely confused about whether the centres are to be or have already been established and where they are to be established. K24 and Kameme TV, both of which are affiliated to the President’s family, three weeks ago already claimed that the machines had already been set up and Kenyans in the diaspora could already apply for the visas from their embassies, which evidently is not the case.

Furthermore, an article published in the Standard completely tells a different story. The article claims there will be six new centres abroad in South Africa, Dubai, Britain, Belgium, Washington and Los Angeles. Excusing the fact that they mixed cities and countries, from this new list it seems Berlin is NOT expected to become a passport processing centre. The article even goes further and promises that the new centres will be open as early as in November. 

The Kenyan Ambassador to Germany, Prof. Magutt, during the Mkenya Ujerumani’s 10th anniversary in Frankfurt, mentioned that the rollout of new centres was underway and he HOPED that Berlin being a passport processing centre for the analog passport, would be upgraded to process the ePassport. 

I have complained severally on the shoddy methodology used to introduce this new passport, but evidently, no one is willing to improve on the inefficiencies. The new passport was launched last year, we have one year till the deadline, but seems the ministry is in no hurry. Have we really asked if it is even necessary to create such a circus over this document? Do we need it? Kenya is the second country in the region, after Burundi to introduce the ePassport, does it mean the other countries are not part of this “world deadline”? 

If our country was serious about beating that deadline and getting all of us using the new ePassport, they should have launched it in 2009. This would have ensured that even those that renewed their passports shortly before the launch, would have to renew them in 2019, because they would be expired. Considering the mean household income for many Kenyans, making people who got a new passport in 2017 to reapply to get the new ePassport before 2019, is plain robbery.

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