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Rwandans who have lived in Kenya for 70 years appeal for naturalisation

By David Ohito | February 15th 2017
Rwandan High Commissioner, Ambassador James Kimonyo

Grandparents and parents of an estimated 500 Rwandans were moved from Rwanda to Kenya by the British colonial administration in 1940’s to work mostly in tea plantations in Kericho County and other parts of Kenya.

 In 1945, those Rwandans were granted Kenyan citizenship and subsequently given Kenyan national identity cards, and later in 1975, these national identity cards were replaced by three-month renewable alien identification cards. This applied to other foreign nationalities that came under the same arrangement. Efforts to regain their citizen status has since then proved futile up to day.

Following the Makonde community’s match to the State House on October 2016 seeking the resolution of their stateless situation that they have endured for a number of decades, representatives of Rwandans in the similar situation as mentioned above went to the Rwandan High Commission in Nairobi and raised the same issue.

That meeting prompted the visit by H.E The High Commissioner Amb. James Kimonyo to Kericho on February 12, 2017 where he met and heard their grievances.

During the interactive session, majority of the questions asked by community members revolved around the issue of statelessness, which has denied them the fundamental rights enjoyed by the rest of Kenyans. The High Commissioner was informed that in 1980’s, Kenyan Government then decided to send them back to Rwanda but the then Government of Rwanda refused to accept their return saying that they are Kenyans.

Some members of the community had to live under falsified identities for them to be able to get employment or send their children to school. They narrated how hard it is for them to do any long-term investment like acquiring land or property.

Gabriel Ndagijimana who was born in Kericho in 1940 before Kenya gained its independence said that like many others he is neither a Kenyan nor Rwandan citizen.

“At 77 years, I have never opened a bank account; I have never voted, never bought property and I am tired of this situation and worried about my children.” Ndagijimana said.

According to John Nyirindekwe who was born in Kericho to two Rwandan parents in 1940, children born to members of his community cannot be able to join public schools because they are considered as foreigners.

“We have seen children of our neighbors enjoying Government bursary to pursue their education dreams while our children cannot because of our stateless status.”

Members of the community acknowledged Pan Africanism gesture showed by President Uhuru Kenyatta when he granted Kenyan citizenship to Makonde community who have lived under the same situation for decades and asked The High Commissioner to engage the President and his Government in helping them to get out of this quagmire.

In response, Ambassador James Kimonyo said that based on the existing friendly and strong friendship between Rwanda and Kenya and in the spirit of the East African Community integration, he believes Kenyan Government will find a lasting solution to this matter.

“I will engage the relevant Government institutions in order to resolve this matter as soon as possible.” Amb. Kimonyo concluded.

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