"The people of Pemba
descent should be granted citizenship status as a matter of
"They have been part and parcel of this nation’s fabric since
pre-colonial days," Munaita said.
According to the UNHCR, the Pemba comprises the largest group
of stateless people in Kenya followed by Shona who trace their
ancestry to Zimbabwe.
There are also pockets of Burundians and Rwandese who settled
in Kenya during colonial days but are yet to be recognized as
citizens of their adopted country.
Munaita said his push to grant citizenship to the Pemba is in
line with UNHCR ten-year global plan to end statelessness that
is considered a human rights violation.
"We need to step up pressure on the government to recognize
and register stateless people," Munaita remarked, adding the
recognition of the Makonde who trace their ancestry to
Mozambique as Kenyan citizens was a milestone in ending
The quest for the Pemba community to be granted Kenyan
citizenship has gathered steam thanks to grassroots advocacy and
fervent appeals from the international community.
Shaame Hamisi Makame, the Chairman of Pemba community in
Kenya, said his kinsmen desire to be recognized as citizens of
their adopted nation in order to contribute fully to its
"Our ancestors came here to conduct fishing and trade but
successive generations have been denied education, jobs and
voting rights due to lack of citizenship," said Makame.
He noted that the Pemba have made an immense contribution to
the development of post-independent Kenya through their renowned
entrepreneurial spirit and rich culture.
"The Pemba living along the vast Kenyan coastline are a
valuable resource that should be tapped to develop this country.
We pay taxes, have built schools and our cultural heritage can
be showcased to attract tourists," Makame remarked.
Lack of citizenship has also taken a toll on the youth from
the Pemba community who worried about an uncertain future unless
their plight was addressed.
Hamisi Hassan, a 22-year-old high school graduate, said lack
of a birth certificate almost denied him a chance to sit for his
final exams in both primary and secondary schools.
The affable community organizer said that his quest for
college education was almost cut off prematurely because of lack
of a national identification card.
"Obtaining formal education has been a herculean task and
were it not for the intervention from local administrators, I
was almost giving up on primary and high school education,"
He revealed that statelessness has denied the Pemba youth a
chance to pursue white collar jobs and start families.
The elders from Pemba community have emboldened its quest to
be granted Kenyan citizenship through quiet diplomacy.
Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, a Pemba elder from Takaungu village in
Kenyan northern coastal county of Kilifi, said his community
will employ peaceful means in its quest for recognition as
citizens of the East African nation.
"The journey in our quest for citizenship in this country has
been laborious but dialogue with authorities is key to gaining
victory," said Mohamed.
The Makonde: From Statelessness to Citizenship in Kenya