Kinyarwanda-speaking Kenyans appeal for naturalization after 70 years of statelessness

Published by Théophile Niyitegeka
On 13 February 2017 saa 10:45
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Grandparents and parents of an estimated 500 Rwandans were moved from mother land to Kenya by the British colonial administration in 1940’s to work mostly in tea plantations in Kericho county and other parts of Kenya.

In 1945, these Rwandans were granted Kenyan citizenship and subsequently given Kenyan national identity cards. Later in 1975, the national identity cards were replaced by three-month renewable foreigner identification cards. This applied to other foreign nationalities that came under the same arrangement. Efforts to regain citizenship status have since proved futile.

Following the Makonde community’s match to the State House on October 2016 seeking to the resolution of their stateless situation that they have endured for a number of decades, representatives of Rwandans in the similar situation as mentioned above went to the Rwandan High Commission in Nairobi and raised the issue.

The meeting compelled H.E The High Commissioner Amb. James Kimonyo tovisit Kericho on February 12th 2017 where he met and heard their grievances.

During the interactive session, majority of questions from community members revolved around the issue of statelessness, which has denied them the fundamental rights enjoyed by the rest of Kenyans. The High Commissioner was informed that in 1980’s, Kenyan Government then decided to send them back to Rwanda but the Government of Rwanda refused their return saying they are Kenyans.

Some members of the community had to live under falsified identities for them to be able to get employment or send their children to school. They narrated how hard it is for them to run any long-term investment like acquiring land or property.

Gabriel Ndagijimana who was born in Kericho in 1940 before Kenya gained its independence said that like many others he is neither a Kenyan citizen nor Rwandan.

“At 77 years, I have never opened a bank account; I have never voted, never bought a property and I am tired of this situation and worried about my children.” Ndagijimana said

According to John Nyirindekwe who was born in Kericho to two Rwandan parents in 1940, children born to members of his community cannot access public schools because they are considered as foreigners.

“We have seen children of our neighbors enjoying Government bursary to pursue their education dreams while our children cannot because of our stateless status.”

Members of the community acknowledged Pan Africanism gesture showed by President Uhuru Kenyatta when he granted Kenyan citizenship to Makonde community who have lived under the same situation for decades and asked the High Commissioner to engage the President and his Government in helping them to get out of this quagmire.

In response, Ambassador James Kimonyo said that based on the existing strong friendship between Rwanda and Kenya and in the spirit of the East African Community integration, he believes Kenyan Government will find a lasting solution to this matter.

“I will engage the relevant Government institutions in order to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Amb. Kimonyo concluded.

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Belgian settlers and Rwandans together during the era of Belgian colonialism of Rwanda.

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