Source: Kenya Human Rights Commission
By Bernard Mugendi
The Shona community lived in the shadows and were previously not willing to engage with activists due to the fear generated by numerous arrests and harassment they’d been systematically subjected to, especially during the Moi era. Resultantly, when KHRC approached them in 2015 after being referred by a journalist, at first, they repulsed us.
However, in 2017 after our fruitful advocacy for recognition of the Makonde, they reached out for our support to help them organize and seek for Kenyan citizenship that had been long elusive. Interestingly part of the confidence-building came in the form of referral by key government officials who asked them to reach out to KHRC.
KHRC met a Shona community that was very scared, distrusting, and disparaged. In 2018, KHRC began consistent engagement with the Shona, to get to understand them. We researched their origin and their journey to Kenya which is captured in a report titled Missionaries in identity Limbo. The Shona came in as missionaries between 1959-1962. The group of original entrants into Kenya was a total of fifty adults who have since grown into a community of over two thousand five hundred people.
We began organizing them, and we worked on achieving little gains for them on the go. We enhanced media coverage of the Shona so that their plight could be widely known. We supported them to set up social media accounts to tell their stories. We also gave them space in a government meeting to speak about their issues. Their narration always moved duty bearers to tears. They lived a life of pain, shame, and torture.