Birth Certificate Shenanigans
[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“5760.0”] Not Nairobi governmental buildings. I’m not supposed to take pictures of those.[/caption]
My wife and I just had a son; you might have seen the picture last week. It’s always interesting making these life transitions in a new place. Things just work differently and you just have to learn to adapt.
But there is a lot that needs to get done - hospital things need sorting and then the legal aspect of bringing a kid into the world needs to be sorted as well. It’s the latter that I’m presently working on and it’s much more of a head ache here compared with what we had to go through with our first born in Cape Town (the hospital sorted things there).
I started the process of getting the birth certificate at the hospital before we left. It started with taking forms from the labor & delivery wing to the hospital records wing. There more forms were filled out and a letter was typed up and stamped and I was told to take the bundle I was handed, along with my wife and I’s passports, to city hall in downtown Nairobi.
I wasn’t looking forward to that as navigating government office downtown can be tricky.
But I got up early the day after getting home and headed downtown to be there as they opened. After getting a bit lost in the building some kind souls slowly pointed me in the right direction and I eventually found office #1 up four flights of stairs. There a nice lady looked over my documents, wrote some things on one of them, and then sent me off to the cash office.
In the cash office I was supposed to wait in a particular line, which I did, to pay the recording fee (about $5 USD). I waited. And waited. And waited a bit longer (close to an hour and a half). I got up to the front only to be told I was supposed to go to a different desk somewhere else first. After a bit of frustrated arguing I trudged off to the other place - it’s line was thankfully much shorter and thankfully they sent me to the front of the previous line to pay (at this point the wait would have been much longer as the line was twice as long as when I got in it).
Receipt in hand I headed out of the City Hall complex to find a copy shop. They needed me to make copies of the paperwork and the receipt and my passports. Thankfully there were several copy shops across the street.
Once that was done I headed back to the first office in City Hall and was directed to a different lady. She took the receipt and my paperwork and looked over it and said, ”The hospital filled it out wrong. I don’t think your son was born anywhere. There needs to be more stamps!” After some back and forth trying to figure out what in the world she was talking about I left and headed back to the hospital.
At the hospital records room I found some one and explained the predicament and that I really wanted to get it taken care of so I could get my son’s birth certificate. There was lots of animated discussion about how nothing was wrong. I explained what I was told. They chuckled and shook there heads. Finally a supervisor came and looked and reiterated that. I told her what City Hall had told me so she grabbed a stamp, looked at what it said and then said, ”This will be ok.” and stamped the heck out of the form. I was then able to convince them to make copies so that I didn’t have to go to another copy shop.
Documents and copies in hand I headed back to City Hall. This time everything checked out. I thought I was done. But I was wrong. They lady I talked to said the document packet needed to be taken somewhere else (after stamping it numerous times). She told me where but then said that they could do it if I wanted that it cost only about $20 USD. She wouldn’t give a receipt though so this sounded fishy to me so I decided to go myself; we try to avoid the corruption issues as much as possible so if it smells funny we pass on it if we can.
I was told that that office was closed for the day so at this point I headed home to make the trek out another time.
A couple of days later, documents in hand, I headed back downtown to finish the process. Upon arrival at this new office I filled out the appropriate form and went to the appropriate line. When I got to the front the lady looked at my paperwork and said, ”I can’t do this. You need to see Charles. Go to the guard over there.” I was thinking, ”what’s wrong now??” at this point in time. But I went to the guard. He informed me that Charles wasn’t in and that he didn’t know when he’d be in. Thankfully another guy at a desk heard and waved me in and took a look at my documents. There was one error in them: the form I filled out this day asked for the mother’s full name before marriage. I put this down thinking that it was what they wanted. It’s not. They wanted the mother’s full name now.
He then sent me to pay at the cash counter. I had my $20 ready (remember that’s what the lady at City Hall had told me) but when I got to the front I found out that it was only the equivalent of 50 cents (I’m glad I didn’t pay at City Hall now!). I was given the receipt and then told to come back on Thursday (today) to pick up his birth certificate.
Well, I went today and was told, ”It’s not yet ready. Come back tomorrow morning.” Hopefully tomorrow it’ll be ready and I can move on to phase two: getting him a passport and legal in the US.
If you are looking to give birth in Kenya and want to know anymore about the process feel free to ask! And, if you have an amusing or hectic story tracking down birth certificates in your country feel free to comment with your story!
UPDATE: Well I returned to Bishops House today. Got to the front on the line. The guy looked in his stacks and then sent me back to the cash window. There they took my receipt, looked in there books, wrote something and then sent me back to the first counter. When I got to the front the guy looked again, then sent me to find someone behind the counter. This guy looked in his books and wrote something new on the receipt and then sent me back to the original line. I was hoping time 3 would be the charm. It wasn’t. The same guy as the previous two times looked at my receipt and then sent me to another guy behind the counter. This guy didn’t even look at my receipt or say anything. He just pointed at yet another guy. This guy took my receipt and told me to wait in the lobby. I waited about 30 minutes and then he waved me back and gave me two copies of the birth certificate. Task accomplished.
As an aside the run around I experienced was crazy. Kenyans I have talked to think people were just looking for bribes because I’m an American. It’s not surprising to me that so many people give them because the right way can be such a hassle. Here’s to hoping systems improve and corruption becomes a thing of the past.