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Khat pickers with bad fingerprints in Mbeere South denied ID cards

A khat farmer packs his crop at a collection point near his plantation in Maua, near Meru on August 20, 2014. Britain, whose large ethnic Somali community sustained a majority market for the leaves, banned khat as an illegal drug /REUTERS
A khat farmer packs his crop at a collection point near his plantation in Maua, near Meru on August 20, 2014. Britain, whose large ethnic Somali community sustained a majority market for the leaves, banned khat as an illegal drug /REUTERS

Numerous Mbeere South Residents are being denied national ID cards because they lack fingerprints, which have been eroded through continous miraa picking and other manual labour.

Provincial administrators and Registrar of Persons officials say residents who regularly pick miraa erase their finger prints as they pick and cut the leaves. The officers say they must turn away residents with unclear fingerprints, because prints are mandatory in ID registration.

IDs are required for voter registration. Unlike the miraa from Meru, whose fresh branches are picked from a plant before a consumer peels off the skin for chewing, Embu miraa farmers pick the leaves from a bush.

The most affected are miraa pickers in Gikiiro sublocation. Assistant chief Eston Ireri yesterday said the matter has caused concern as many adults lack IDs.

“Many of my residents can’t register for IDs for lack of clear fingerprints. We advise them to stop picking miraa for several months and register to get an ID once their fingers have healed,” Ireri said.

He said the pickers sometimes keep long nails, which they use to cut the fresh muguka leaves. This also destroys their fingerprints. Ireri said this is a serious problem because those without IDs cannot carry out official transactions. They cannot register as voters, the assistant chief said.

Ireri said other manual jobs erase fingerprints. He said some lepers have been denied IDs because they do not have fingers.

The chief said he has severally helped John Njeru to fill the registration forms but he is always sent away. “We have even tried attaching his picture with the forms but all has been in vain since after they arrive at the registrar of person’s office they are rejected,” Ireri said.