Rwandan refugees ask to be recognised as 44th Kenyan tribe

Published: 10/Jul/2021
Source: The Daily Nation (Nairobi)

By Tom Matoke

Rwandans whose parents came to Kenya to work as slaves for the British colonial government now want to be recognised as Kenya’s 44th tribe. Their grandparents came to Kenya starting in the 1930s under the force of a colonial decree. Even then, they said, they are still not recognised as Kenyan citizens, with no rights to acquire an identity card.

In an interview with Nation.Africa, descendants of the immigrants narrated how their great grandparents were forcibly transferred to Kenya by the colonial government in groups in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. They came under a deal between British colonialists and the government of Belgium, which ruled Rwanda at the time. More Rwandans came to Kenya as refugees after the 1994 genocide and are now all settled in multinational tea estates in Kericho, Nandi and Bomet, where colonialists had taken their compatriots by force to work on the plantations. They say they have lived in Kenya long enough to deserve citizenship.

The Rwandans want to follow in the footsteps of the Makonde community, who in 2016 were recognised as Kenyan citizens, with 10,000 of them registered to receive identity cards. Tales of suffering from the stateless members of Pemba community Complaints of rejection Statistics show that about 12,000 Rwandan nationals live in Kenya, spread across different towns. The third generation of Rwandan nationals who came to Kenya in colonial days complain that they have suffered rejection from both the Kenyan and Rwandan governments.

Gerald Ndagijimana Senkomo, 70, the chairman of a Kenyan Rwandese Association, says the group recognises Kenya as its home. “Now I’m just here, with no rights, no property. I do not own a Kenyan birth certificate, an identity card, a bank account or any other necessary document,” he said. “I do not own property and I cannot even acquire it, even if I had the money.”

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Themes: Naturalisation and Marriage, Statelessness
Regions: Kenya
Year: 2021