By Staff Reporter
At least 4 000 members of the Shona community originating from Zimbabwe, but living in Kenya over the past 60 years, were last week issued with birth certificates after being denied access to basic rights including education in the east African country.
In 2016, the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC), the Kenya Human Rights and the local leadership in Kenya, launched a campaign to end the statelessness of this marginalised community.
Since 1961, when their forefathers originated from Zimbabwe, the Shona community has lived in Kenya without legal documents as authorities denied them basic rights including education while some were repeatedly arrested.
Last Thursday, the Kenyan government issued the Shona parents and their children with birth certificates at a ceremony that was also attended by MPs from Zimbabwe.
“What does this mean, getting a birth certificate? For the first time in your life you get a document that has your name. This is big,” UNHCR representative, Wanja Munaita said at a ceremony where the birth certificates were issued to the Shonas.
“I cannot even be able to quantify. As a human being, you should be recognised by your name. These children have lived here, were born here, they were not able to be recognised as who they were born. So, this is big,” added Munaita.
However, although the community still does not have identity cards to be legally Kenyans, they welcomed the new development.
Due to lack of the birth certificates, the children were forced to drop out of school while most parents were forced to work as labourers earning very low wages.
“We cannot go back home since, like me, there is nothing that I know about Zimbabwe,” said Oliver Muregerera.
Another beneficiary, Ishmael Mkonyo said he was arrested several times in Kenya for not having an ID.
“I grew up here and I now have seven children all born in Kenya. Our biggest problem, however, is documentation. I have been arrested several times due to lack of any form of documentation. I am very happy because this has been one of our major problems,” said Mkonyo.
The first members of the Shona community arrived in Kenya as missionaries and settled in the central part of that country without any form identification.