Integrated but Undocumented: A study into the nationality status of the Makonde community in Kenya

Published: 7/Feb/2015
Source: UNHCR

A study by the UNHCR Representation in Kenya in partnership with: Haki Centre, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Haki Africa, Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa.


The results of the assessment indicate that the Makonde in Kenya are integrated into the Kenyan society in many ways. The majority of respondents indicated that they have lived in Kenya whole their life, raised their children and sent them to school Kenya, sustained themselves through various livelihoods in a similar manner to Kenyans and married persons from other tribes considered as Kenyan nationals. Makonde have lived in Kenya up to the fifth generation including their minor children, but the arrival of the first generation of their families to Kenya is documented to a limit.

Only a small fraction of respondents possessed documents that would prove that they are “considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law” 15, or were able to effectively access such documentation. Over half of respondents had approached Kenyan Government officials to register for Kenyan documentation, predominantly the national identity card, but in most cases their application was either rejected or not acted upon.

A minority of respondents had obtained documents issued by officials of the Government of Mozambique in Kenya, such as consular cards and emergency travel certificates. It remains unclear, whether these documents alone can constitute sufficient proof of Mozambican nationality, including access to entitlements to the same extent as for example with a Mozambican national identity card or a Mozambican passport. No respondent provided evidence of possession of a Mozambican passport or national identity card, either valid or expired. From a practical angle, respondents indicated that the Mozambican documentation they have received has not enabled them to regularize their  status in Kenya in any form and the vast majority stated that return to Mozambique is not an option for them.

In the absence of further proof with regards to documentation, persons of Makonde origin in Kenya may assumed to be either stateless or of undetermined nationality16 based on information provided by respondents during the assessment. The national legislation in Kenya provides avenues for the regularization of the nationality status of the Makonde, notably through provisions outlined in the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011.

The recommendations below are developed from the findings of the assessment. They aim to provide avenues for resolving the nationality status of the Makonde population in Kenya, including the prevention of further statelessness or undetermined nationality among the population. The recommendations are addressed to a variety of actors with the underlying notion that decisions regarding the recognition of nationality ultimately fall within the sole competence of national Governments. The recommendations are likely to apply to a large extent also to other populations affected by statelessness or undetermined nationality in Kenya, which merits further exploration concerning their adaptability.

Download file: UNHCR, Integrated but Undocumented

Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious, Identity Documents, Statelessness
Regions: Kenya
Year: 2015