Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Kenya: Constitutionality of Government Memo Imposing Racial Profiling Challenged

(Jan. 20, 2011) It was reported on January 13, 2011, that the High Court in Mombasa is looking into the constitutionality of a government-issued confidential internal memo which calls for Kenyan Muslims and Kenyans of Arab or Asian descent to be made subject to more vetting procedures than usually imposed in the application process for national identification cards (ID Cards Vetting Sidelines Muslims, Court Told, DAILY NATION ON THE WEB (Jan. 13, 2011), The petitioners, the Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) (a Mombasa-based rights group) and Khelef Khalifa (the former commissioner of Kenya's National Commission on Human Rights), argue that the memo discriminates on the basis of religion, race, and place of origin. They are seeking that the memo be declared unconstitutional (id.).

The confidential memo makes it harder for Muslims and individuals of Arab or Asian descent to obtain national ID cards. Under current Kenyan law, the only evidentiary requirements for obtaining an ID card are:

· proof of date of birth or apparent age (birth certificate, age assessment certificate, baptism certificate); and

· proof of Kenyan citizenship (Registration of Persons Act, The Registration of Persons Rules, §4(2), 13 LAWS OF KENYA, Cap. 107, Kenyan Law Reports (KLR) website, (last visited Jan. 14, 2011)).

In addition to the above requirements imposed on everyone seeking a national ID, the confidential memo states that Muslims and individuals of Arab and Asian descent should be required to produce additional documentation, including national ID cards of their grandparents, in order to be issued national ID cards (DAILY NATION ON THE WEB, supra.). MUHURI has received a number of complaints, one of which involved Khalifa's son, who was refused a national ID because he failed to produce his grandfather's birth certificate (id.).