Mozambicans living in Kenya for 60 years refuse envoys call to vote in Mozambique’s election

A man expresses his point during a meeting at Jomo Kenyatta Primary School grounds in Kwale County on Sunday 27th July 2014. The meeting attended by Mozambique high commissioner Floriano Maneno was disrupted by some attendants who said that they were not willing to vote in Mozambique since they have already settled in Kenya. [PHOTO: KELVIN KARANI]

KWALE COUNTY: A meeting convened by the Mozambican ambassador Floriano Maneno to quell the growing dissent among Makonde community of Kwale and his Government turned chaotic at Jomo Kenyatta Primary School on Sunday after they split in two.

Half of the estimated 40,000 Makonde people who trace their roots to Mozambique support efforts by Mozambique's effort to register them to vote in that country's October polls and eventually repatriate them to the Southern Africa country but the rest want to be given Kenyan citizenship after intermarrying with Kenyans and living in Kenya for more than 60 years.

The Makonde live in Gasi, Mwangwey and Ramisi in Kwale County and also in Vipingo, Kilifi County. Most of them trace their roots to a group of Mozambicans that came to Kenya during the Second World War to work as labourers in farms in Kilifi, Kwale and Taita Taveta.

They are mostly poor and illiterate and have lived in legal limbo because they are not normally issued with Kenyan identity papers despite their long stay in Kenya and marriage to Kenyans. Although Kenya has declared them stateless, it has never expelled them and in recent years Mozambique has tried to entice them to return home.

Every year, the Mozambican Embassy in Nairobi and consulate in Mombasa tries to register them to vote and on Sunday Floriano went to Kwale to meet them. The opposition in Mozambique has often accused the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) of using such population to rig elections.

One faction was singing 'viva Frelimo' in praise of Mozambique's ruling party while the second group were reciting the famous Kenyan Mapambano song to register their displeasure of how their home country is handling their plight.

"These guys have come here and found us doing our meeting peacefully then started shouting. I come from Mozambique but I also like Kenya but they should have given an opportunity to dialogue first," said Jomo Mwarabu who was in support of the meeting.

The second faction, however, said the meeting was of no significance as the main agenda of the envoy was to convince them to vote in the upcoming elections scheduled for October.

"What they are telling us is that Mozambique is good and has good life. We do not want to hear that. What they should tell us is how the Kenyan Government will recognise us," said the community's chairperson Thomas Nguli.

Nguli said there is no need of going back to Mozambique because they were born in Kenya and don't have any known relatives in Mozambique.

The chairperson claimed that the Mozambican Government only wants to use them to vote and called those supporting the move had been paid.

A number of issues were raised including the lack of identity cards that have hindered their operations in Kenya.

"I did hairdressing but cannot get a certificate due to lack of an identity card. I am married to a Kamba man with whom we have two children but any time I apply for an identity card I am asked to come with my parents identity cards but they also don't have," lamented Christine Kurwa.

Livedus Daniel who came to Kenya in 1940 says he has no idea how his home country looks like. The meeting became so stormy until police had to be called in to quell calm people down by throwing out the faction against the High commissioner who in the entire session was quite.

Kwale Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has been planning to petition the Senate to discuss the registration issues facing the community.

The committee's chairperson who is also Kinango ward representative Salim Awadh told The Standard that this was the only way to help the community get Kenyan IDs after seeking an advice from the Kwale registrar of persons.

"We summoned the officials from the registrar's office who gave us that advice. The locals staying with the Makonde community have embraced them," said Awadh.

Other foreign communities in Kwale include Shirazi, Pemba, Rwandese and Burundians, said Kwale registrar of persons Denis Mwanza, adding that besides petitioning Senate, the other option is to seek advice from the Immigration department.