The Makonde people’s long wait for recognition has paid off after the Cabinet Thursday approved their bid for citizenship.
The move came on a day President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted a delegation of 300 members of the group at State House, Nairobi following their four-day trek from Kwale County.
President Kenyatta ordered that all eligible members of the Makonde people be issued with national identity cards by December.
The President further directed responsible Government departments to ensure the members of the stateless community are issued with title deeds for the land they own.
“I seek your apology on behalf of other Kenyans because Kenya has taken too long to consider you as our brothers and sisters,” said the President as he assured the delegation that Thursday would be the last day that anyone would refer to them as non-Kenyans.
The Makonde are a community living in Kwale County, but are originally from Mozambique and have for decades remained without citizenship.
The Makonde people were enlisted by the British colonial authorities from Northern Mozambique in 1947 to work in sisal farms and sugar plantations in the counties of Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta but after Kenya attained independence in 1963, they were not identified as one of Kenya’s 42 tribes.
Thursday marked a departure from their eventful journey that began on Monday, which saw them blocked by police on several occasions in a bid to thwart their advance to State House. The group was accorded VIP protection on their way to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House.
Earlier, their entourage was stopped by heavily armed anti-riot police on Kenyatta Avenue at the Procession Way junction and ordered into Uhuru Park.
At Uhuru Park, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery addressed them and announced that he had been directed to take them to State House by the President.
“The President has ordered me to take you to him so that he talks to you. Let us go and I am willing to implement any order he issues regarding your grievances,” said Nkaissery.
Mzee Thomas Nguli, one of the representatives of the community, said the Makonde have for decades sought help from Government to be recognised as Kenyans.
President Kenyatta said the issue had been brought to his attention by Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya and that the Government had been working to resolve it.