from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – KENYA’S decision to grant citizenship to stateless people of Rwandan and Zimbabwean descent is worth emulating for other countries globally in addressing statelessness.
The government of President Uhuru Kenyatta last Saturday granted 1 670 stateless Shona descendants from Zimbabwe and 1 300 stateless persons of Rwandan descent.
Kenyatta announced the landmark decision during celebrations marking Kenya’s 57th Jamhuri (Independence) Day.
“This is a life-changing development for thousands of people,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) representative in Kenya.
The envoy said by granting them citizenship, Kenya ensured they were fully included in society.
“This will also set a precedent for other countries to follow when it comes to resolving longstanding statelessness,” Abdalla said.
The Shona community arrived in Kenya from Zimbabwe, then known as Southern Rhodesia and later Rhodesia, as Christian missionaries in the 1960s.
They carried British passports and were registered as British subjects.
After Kenya’s independence in 1963, they had a two-year window to register as Kenyans, which many missed. In addition, because they were no longer resident in their countries of birth, they were not able to register there, thus rendering them stateless.
Many stateless persons of Rwandan descent came to Kenya in the 1930s to work in local tea estates.
Due to a combination of factors, similar to the Shona people, they have become stateless.
Kenya is home to an estimated 18 500 stateless people, most of whom are members of ethnic minority groups.
This includes the Pemba people, whose ancestors came from the Pemba Island, Tanzania.
– CAJ News