NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 13 – President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday issued a directive that all eligible Makonde people should be issued with national Identity Cards by December.
The President, who also hosted a delegation of 300 members of the community, who trekked from Kwale County, at State House, Nairobi apologized to them.
“I seek your apology on behalf of other Kenyans because Kenya has taken too long to consider you as our brothers and sisters,” said the President as he assured the delegation “that today will be the last day that anyone will say the Makonde are not part of this nation.”
The President further ordered responsible Government departments to ensure the members of the community are issued with title deeds for land they own.
The Makonde community lives in Kwale County but was originally from Mozambique and have for decades been kept without citizenship.
President Kenyatta told the delegation that the issue had been brought to his attention by the Governor of Kwale, Salim Mvurya, and that the Government has been working to resolve the matter.
Earlier in the day, President Kenyatta chaired a Cabinet meeting, which among other issues, adopted a directive to start the process of giving citizenship to the Makonde.
During the meeting with the Makonde, President Kenyatta said he will visit Mombasa in December and by that time he wants the process of their registration completed.
Deputy President William Ruto said it was regrettable that the Makonde have never been recognised as Kenyans up to this time, adding that the problems they have been facing has been solved now.
The meeting was also addressed by Cabinet Secretary for Interior Maj Gen (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery and the Director of Immigration Maj Gen (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa.
Mzee Thomas Nguli, one of the representatives of the community who spoke at the meeting, said the Makonde have for decades sought help from Government to be recognised as Kenyans given the fact that they were brought to the country in 1940s.
He said getting jobs, owning land and even educating their children has been difficult.
He said that they were happy that the President had invited them to State House so that they can tell him firsthand the problems they have been facing.
“We have never thought that one day we will be hosted at State House,” Mzee Nguli said.
The Makonde’s spent the better part of the day walking along major streets of the City accompanied by human rights defenders, among them Kenya Human Rights Commission Director George Kegoro protesting their decade state of being without citizenship.
“It is a great injustice for people to live in this country without being given Identity Cards,” Kegoro said.
Kegoro had accused the government for systematic discrimination of the over 10,000 stateless people contrary to the Kenya Citizenship and Membership Act a state that has now been reversed.
The community were recruited by the British colonial authorities from Northern Mozambique in 1947 to work in sisal farms and sugar plantations in the counties of Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta.
When Kenya attained independence in 1963, the Makonde were not identified as one of the 42 tribes of Kenya.
Asians and Arabs who held British citizenship were however given a two year grace period to either register as Kenyan citizens or take up British citizenship.
This provision left out other migrant communities who had been living in Kenya before 1963 and who consequently became stateless.
After promulgation of the new Constitution in 2010, the new Citizenship and Immigration Act No. 12 of 2011, which was enacted, had a provision for issuance of citizenship to stateless persons. This was valid for five years but the Cabinet Secretary could extend it for three more years.
However, the Makonde have been unable to take advantage of the new law. Their failure to apply for citizenship can be attributed to lack of necessary supporting documents.