Some hundreds of Shona people living in Kenya have been going on peaceful marches in the streets to draw the attention of the government to their statelessness so that they can be recognised as Kenyan citizens.
About 5 000 Shona people live in Kenya. They are the descendants of about 100 Shona missionaries who moved to Kenya from Zimbabwe in the 1960s to establish the Gospel of God Church.
The move was accepted and welcomed by Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, but his successors have not done much to integrate the Shona.
Most of the missionaries settled in the Kiambu area just on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
However, their descendants are stateless in Kenya despite living and being born in the country.
The Shona in Kenya do not have access to identity cards, passports or driver’s license and are hindered from accessing good jobs because they cannot be employed formally.
Mike Moyo, a carpenter in nearby Kiambu County, has 10 children and 7 grandchildren who were all born in Kenya but are stateless and do not have birth certificates or identity cards. Moyo’s eldest highlighted their predicament. He said:
We can’t enjoy services that nationals enjoy. We don’t have mobile banking and going to the hospital is also a challenge.
Birth certificates are needed for class 8 registration for our children who are in primary school so sometimes we are forced to ‘buy’ parents so that our children can continue with education. We cannot even save money.
Meanwhile, the Kenyan government has made efforts to resolve the statelessness of the Shona people and in August 2019, 600 citizenships were offered to some of them.
Some 2,000 people have applied for birth certificates recently and they are yet to be processed.