Lamu fishermen are yet to receive a special smart identification card, called the ‘Mvuvi Card’, four years after the State launched the programme to boost security in the region.
More than 6,000 fishermen across Lamu County were to receive the cards under an initiative announced in July 2018.
The cards were to have a microchip so that security agencies could monitor the whereabouts of each fisherman on the ocean.
This would in turn shield the fishermen from harassment by security officers as they patrol the sea.
The cards were also to help security personnel distinguish real fishermen from crime suspects.
The cards were to contain basic identification information, including the national identity card number, a special serial number and the fishermen’s respective beach management units (BMUs).
Four years later, Nation.Africa has established that no single fisherman in Lamu has received the document.
Lamu BMU Network chairperson Mohamed Somo questioned why the government is silent on the matter.
Mr Somo said all the fishermen in Lamu had agreed to cooperate with the State in all the processes required provided they got the document.
He said they viewed the Mvuvi Card as a relief for them after enduring years of frustrations, government restrictions at sea, including a night fishing ban, and frequent harassment by security agencies that saw many of them quit fishing.
“We were happy when the government announced the plan to issue Mvuvi Cards. They took our photos and registered us. We’re surprised that no one has received the document. The State is also not giving us updates on the cards,” he said.
Lamu island fishermen spokesperson Abubakar Twalib urged the government to explain the progress of the programme.
Fishermen in Lamu were in the dark on whether the programme is intact or has been discarded, he said.
“They are silent on the Mvuvi Card. My concern is on whether all the fishermen will get the card if they finally go ahead to implement the programme. We welcome the plan but let it be done in a transparent and all-inclusive manner,” he said.
In May 2019, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i visited Lamu and lifted the night-fishing ban that had been in place for more than eight years.
CS Matiang’i also directed that all fishermen be registered electronically as that would prevent scenarios where terrorists pose as fishermen to gain access to Lamu through the porous Somalia border.
Al-Shabaab recruitment agents had used the sea route in Lamu to ferry radicalised youth in and out of Somalia.
Armed with this and other factors, security officers have been reported to harass fishermen working at night on suspicion that they could be militants.
Sharif Abdallah said such mistrust will end if the Mvuvi Cards are issued to legitimate fishermen.
“Our personal details were taken and I don’t understand why the process is being delayed. We need the document. It will save the time being wasted waiting for manual vetting and approvals from security agencies before venturing into the Indian Ocean,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia acknowledged that no fisherman in Lamu had been issued with the Mvuvi Card.
Mr Macharia had earlier announced that the issuing of the document would have been finalised by December 2020.
He said this could not be achieved because some technical issues were yet to be resolved.
“The cards are yet to be issued. There are some technical issues which we are yet to resolve. However, the project remains on course,” he said.