John Juma Khamisi, the group’s secretary. CENTRE: Mama Ruth Tomas,a mat weaver. [PHOTO: TOBIAS CHANJI]
By TOBIAS CHANJI
KWALE, KENYA: A group of Mozambican families living in Kwale County are opposed to attempts by their government to repatriate them to the Southern African country.
The ethnic Makonde community were brought in to work on sugar plantations at the defunct Ramisi Sugar Factory.
They did not return to their motherland when the factory collapsed over three decades ago and live in the derelict houses in former plantations.
Historically, they have been isolated and despised by local Muslims. Many of them resorted to palm wine tapping and sale after the sugar industry collapsed.
Local chauvinists have held myths that the Makonde practiced cannibalism, thus enhancing their isolation. Legally, they live in limbo because although the Kenyan authorities have not expelled them, it has not given them citizenship either.
A couple of years ago, Mozambican embassy officials in Kenya visited the area and tried to persuade them to return to their motherland but none of them was willing to do so. Recently, Mozambique embassy officials entered discussions to try and register them to vote in the country’s October polls.
Their representatives suspect this is an attempt to profile them for expulsion yet they want to be given Kenyan citizenship.
The secretary of the Makonde Community Living in Kenya, John Juma Khamisi said his people will not participate in the Mozambique General Election scheduled for October 15 this year.
He was reacting to a visit by Mozambique Representative in Kenya to Kwale County Commissioner’s office. The official urged the Kenya government to help the Makonde people vote during the election.
Speaking after they visited the registrar of persons office in Kwale town, Khamisi said the Kenyan Makonde are not part of Mozambique but Kenya, where they were born.
“I was born in 1972 when my parents were working here. I do not think it is fair for Mozambique officials to claim that we are people from their country,” he said.
He said the government of Kenya to has considered them aliens even though they were brought up in Kenya and asked the government to register them as citizens.
“The Mozambique government should keep off our issues, Kenya is where we were born and this is our country,” he added.
Kwale County Registrar of Persons, Denis Mwanza said they have registered the Makonde communities as refugees.
“Since Mozambique ambassador said they are their citizens, it is difficult to help them now. They will have to apply through the Immigration Department to get identification cards,” he said.
Kwale County Commissioner Evans Achoki said the population of Makonde community in the region is between 1,500 and 2,000.
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