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Makondes' long wait for legal recognition

Tomas Nguli who is the chairperson Makonde community showing a temporary card that they made. They lamented that criminals who were arrested without IDs have been claiming to be from the Makonde. PHOTO: TOBIAS CHANJI/STANDARD

Kenya: Two years ago, the Mozambique's consulate in Mombasa tried to convince Makonde to be repatriated to Mozambique.

This split the community amid claims the ruling Frelimo was trying to register Makonde to rig itself back to power in a tight race. Several Makonde acquired Mozambican papers but never left Kwale.

There have been previous attempts to legalise their stay in Kenya.

In 2014, Tomas Nguli, Makonde community's chairman in Kwale, told The Standard that efforts to get them Kenyan citizenship started in 2004 with assistance from the Catholic Church's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"We travelled to Nairobi in 2004 and we were given assurances by government (Kenyan) officials. In 2005 most of the community members were registered and given waiting cards, but we have never received the IDs," said Mr Nguli.

According to Hamisi John Kinunga, efforts for the community to get IDs stalled despite political goodwill from the county leaders. He says that the process hit a snug partly because of perceived interest by Mozambican authorities on the community.

Two years ago, a fresh registration by UNHCR began leading to a census of the Makonde. Most wanted to be Kenyan citizens but a spanner was thrown in the works by Mozambique's consulate in Mombasa when it registered several thousands to participate in that country's election.

According to Kwale County Commissioner Evans Achoki at the time, the move by some Makonde to participate in the Mozambican polls "has made the Government to step back and rethinks it's earlier promise to given them IDs".

"It is very unfortunate that their loyalty is now in question. If they expect Kenya to give them citizenship, then they should know that the first step is to denounce Mozambican nationality and then the Kenyan government can declare them stateless," said Achoki.

A new process to register and fully recognise the Makonde community began on February 12 last year in earnest following a petition by the Kwale County Assembly to the President.

Registration and vetting took ten days and the results were taken to Nairobi where they are stuck with the intelligence services.

When The Standard contacted the Kwale County officer in charge of registration of Persons, Mr Denis Mwanza, he referred us to Coast regional director Agrey Masai.

"It is only the Cabinet Secretary who can comment on the current status," said Masai.

"I see this as bad luck because currently the country is sending foreigners out (closing of Dadaab camp)... But within some time will get a solution," he said on phone.

Although Makonde leaders say their population is about 40,000, Mr Masai estimates it is about 4,000.

Masai says the community should have applied to become citizens at at independence, adding that gaps in the Kenyan constitution have also been a great impediment for the Makonde to get legal recognition.

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