When oath of allegiance was required for passport

Paranoid government in 1991 asked one to be faithful to the republic

In Summary

• Stringent requirements were specifically aimed at discouraging foreigners

The issue of Kenyans being unable to get their hands on new or even renewed passports has been in the news quite a bit over the last few months.

Since mid-2023, there have been tales of frustrations, delays, corruption, incompetence and a broken-down printer that eventually forced the government to budget for high-capacity printers.

All these problems came at a time when Kenyans were being urged by their government to look for jobs abroad to lessen the pressure for jobs at home. 

The fact that many of these jobs abroad were more pie in the sky than real did not deter people from applying for passports. But the jobs and their availability and authenticity is another story, perhaps for another day.

Recently it was announced that the long-awaited new passport machines had arrived and that they have the capacity to produce 600 booklets an hour. 

If this is true and there are no further problems, it is hoped that the backlog will be reduced and there might even come a time when passports are fast and easy to get for all.

This business with the printers reminded me of a situation in South Africa last year when that country’s only driver’s licence card-printing machine broke down after undergoing routine maintenance.

It took months to be repaired, seeing as a crucial machine part that had malfunctioned had to be imported from Germany. In that period, the backlog of driving licences across the country just kept growing, as did the frustration.

However, I digress slightly. This demand for passports in 2024 is a sign that more Kenyans are taking advantage of opportunities to travel for business, studies and pleasure, which cannot in any light be considered a bad thing.

It wasn’t always the case. In fact, just 30 or so years ago, for most Kenyans, passports were made to seem like a hard-earned privilege and not the right they appear to be nowadays.

In fact, at one point, as if there were not enough hurdles in the way of ordinary Kenyans obtaining passports, a paranoid government decided to erect one more bureaucratic speed bump.

In 1991, a new rule was announced as the campaigns for the return to a multi-party system of government gathered pace and government critics became more bold in their denunciations of the state, while others took to condemning the government from abroad.

According to a news report in the Kenya Times, Kenyans wishing to obtain a new passport would have to swear an oath of allegiance to the government.

Applicants would be required to sign a document in which they swore to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Republic of Kenya, support and uphold the Constitution of Kenya as by law established”.

The oath of allegiance was designated “Immigration Department Form K” and had to be sworn and signed before either a magistrate or a sworn commissioner of oaths.

This came on top of another form, PP 7, which according to the report: “required the applicant’s identity to be certified by among others, the sub-chief, chief, district officer and district commissioner”.

Form PP 7 also said applicants would be required to be examined with regard to their knowledge of Kiswahili and local history.

These requirements were specifically aimed at discouraging foreigners, who had been known to “buy” Kenyans passports, from the practice.

In those days, Kenyan passport holders did not need visas to travel to destinations such as Europe and the UK. You could literally purchase a plane ticket at the airport and fly to London, Paris or Rome on a whim.

Of course in those days, there was also passport corruption in other countries. 

Around the time of the report mentioned above, there was a report in the UK Sunday Express newspaper about the British police investigating a passport racket.

This racket involved an officer of the UK passport office and a former Kenyan resident of Indian descent in England, selling and even recycling British passports and committing computer fraud.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star