Stateless Pemba community to be registered, receive identity cards

Immigration and Citizen Servises PS Julius Bitok (second right), Kilifi Governor Gideon Mungaro (right) and Kilifi North MP Owen Baya issue an ID waiting card to a member of the Pemba community at Karisa Maitha grounds, Kilifi. [Nehemiah Okwemba, Standard]

The process to recognise members of the Pemba tribe as Kenya’s 47th tribe started on Wednesday at the Coast, marking the end of their suffering.

The tribe, who are traditionally fishermen from Pemba island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, claim they came to Kenya before the Second World War.

For years, the Pemba tribe has decried State discrimination and harassment because they do not possess national identification (ID) cards and birth certificates.

This has made it difficult for them to get crucial government services, engage in contracts or enjoy the rights like participating in national politics.

On Wednesday, Immigration and Citizen Services Principal Secretary Julius Bitok said the Pemba people should now be given the IDs without any condition.

In the exercise expected to take one month, more than 8,000 members of the Pemba community will be registered and issued national identity cards.

The Pemba tribe’s clamour for full recognition follows the inclusion of the Makonde, numbering about 1,100, in the list of Kenyan ethnic groups in 2017. Until then, the Makonde were stateless.

Their main economic activity is deep-sea fishing and they contribute immensely to the country’s economy.

Bitok, who launched the exercise at Karisa Maitha Grounds in Kilifi, was accompanied by Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung’aro and his deputy Florah Chibule. Others were the Country director of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR)  Caroline Van Burren, Kilifi North MP Owen Baya, Kilifi County Assembly speaker Teddy Mwambire and several Kilifi Members of the County Assembly (MCA).

“Today is the day where discrimination against the Pemba will end. President Wiliam Ruto is steadfast in recognizing all of you. We want all members of the Pemba community wherever they are to come out and get registered and be Kenyans,” he said.

Governor Mung’aro, who is also the chairman of the Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (JKP), promised to ensure members of the community who are mostly fishermen benefit from the Sh10 billion Blue Economy funds. 

He also asked the registration of person officers to desist from harassing Kenyans from other tribes when issuing identity documents. “Mr PS, I would like to tell your officers to stop the discrimination that is going on where Kenyans from upcountry communities are asked to seek services in their upcountry places yet they were born and raised in Kilifi County,” he said.

Shahame Hamisi Makame, the chairman of the Pemba Community of Kenya appealed to the Kilifi and Kwale County governors to consider them in county employment and projects. 

“As you give us identity cards, I also want you to help us get land since all the land we reside on belongs to other people,” he said.