The Kenyan government has granted citizenship to nearly 1,700 people of Shona origin, who settled in the east African country from Zimbabwe in the 1930s.
In an interview, Shona community leader, Oliver Muregerera, said President Uhuru Kenyatta, who invited them to attend the nation’s independence celebrations, made the pleasant announcement Saturday at Nyayo National Stadium.
“… We didn’t know anything about the date (for receiving the immigration status) today. We were just called by president Uhuru Kenyatta to come to the stadium. When we got to the stadium we were there just as people attending the celebrations. And then, amazingly, we were told that we were going to be given some registration certificates to note that we are citizens from today. People who were granted the status were 1,670.”
Muregerera said the Shona community, which has lived in the country for many years, is happy that at long last they have been officially recognized as Kenyan citizens.
“Today is a very happy day because we didn’t expect this thing to happen. We have lived in Kenya for many decades and we have been fighting for this to happen. We have gone through a lot. Now we have managed to get the citizenship. We say thanks to God. Only God led us up to this day.”
He said there were more than 4,000 people of Shona origin, who settled in Kinoo area, which is almost 22 kilometers north-west of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
“We shall follow the government’s instructions on the granting of citizenship to others too. We will discuss this issue with the government.”
Muregerera further noted that they expect to visit Zimbabwe soon.
“It will not be easy for us to go to Zimbabwe because we were failing to do so due to lack of travel documents,” adding that they also intend to venture into businesses.
“It’s difficult to do anything without identity documents. One cannot have a bank account and even venture into businesses if one is stateless. Now, all that is possible. We hope to open some businesses and purchase land for our families.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been helping the Shona community in pushing for citizenship in Kenya.
In a message posted on its website, the UNHCR said, “In a world comprised of States, the problem of statelessness remains a glaring anomaly with devastating impacts on the lives of millions of people around the world who live without any nationality.”
In October 2013, the UNHCR called for the “total commitment of the international community to end statelessness.”