Joy as 1,700 stateless Shona people granted Kenyan citizenship

Shona community
A woman from Shona community in Kinoo, Kiambu. [Photo: Citizen Digital]

After decades of living in Kenya in stateless status, the Shona community can finally heave a sigh of relief after being granted citizenship.

One of the Shona community members is Nazizi Dube who could not believe that she is now a Kenyan.

“We want to show that we are not just a burden to the country,” she said as quoted by Citizen Digital.

During the 57th Jamhuri Day fete, the government finally heard the cry of about 1,700 Shona community members and 1,300 Rwandans who lacked Kenyan citizenship.

President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a decree recognizing them as Kenyans.

Their stateless status locked them out of among other things, basic services such as credit facilities because they lacked proper documentation.

Ishmael Dlamini who has been running a carpentry business for over two decades said his biggest challenge was to access capital to expand his business.

With the new status, he is now able to go to a bank and take a loan.

The first Shona group arrived in Kenya from Zimbabwe in the 1930s and in 1960, more came as missionaries.

When Kenya attained independence in 1963, the government issued a two-year window for them to regularize their citizenship but most of them didn’t.

Diana Gichengo, of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, said that for the years that the Shona community have remained stateless, they were subjected to a lot of violations.

“When they were stateless all their rights were violated, their freedom of movement was violated, they couldn’t leave the country, the few who managed to travel were forced to acquire fake or irregular identities to travel, they couldn’t access education,” she said.

Following Uhuru’s decree, some 1,300 Shona people are expected to make a formal application for Kenyan citizenship.

Wanja Munaita of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees hailed the government’s effort in granting the Shona community Kenyan citizenship.