Two years after they were granted Kenyan citizenship, the Makonde community has opposed an alleged move to register them to vote in this year’s general elections in Mozambique, their country of origin.
Led by the chairman of the Makonde community in Kenya Mr. Thomas Nguli, they accused the Mozambican Embassy in Nairobi of being behind the voter listing in Kwale County where majority of them are settled.
Speaking separately from Kwale town and Makongeni village at the weekend, the Makonde who became Kenya’s 43rd tribe after the government agreed to issue them with the national identity cards, said they strongly opposed the registration as they risk losing the citizenship.
They said they were not willing to vote in the October elections in Mozambique since they have already settled in Kenya and that only a few disgruntled elements among them were falling for the ruse.
“I am warning my colleagues to be wary of being duped to register as voters as we risk being stripped off the citizenship which we fought hard to get hence ending our many years of statelessness,” Mr. Nguli said noting that their recognition as Kenyans was granted on condition they strictly adhere to citizenship requirements.
He however admitted that the issue had split the community into two factions but was quick to add that only a few who he dismissed as misguided who are for the voter listing and that the majority were against it.
It emerged that the majority who were born in Kenya are opposed to the exercise and those in support are mainly impressionable youth and those who settled in the country in recent years.
Mr. Nguli said efforts to register them started last week with promises that those willing to do so will eventually be issued with passports to facilitate their repatriation back to the Southern African country.
The chairman claimed the Mozambican government only wants to use them to vote whenever there are elections in Mozambique, accusing those supporting the move of having been paid and called on the Kenyan government to intervene.
In 2014, a meeting convened by the Mozambican Embassy at Kwale’s Jomo Kenyatta Primary School turned chaotic after the Makonde split into two over the same issue of attempting to register them as voters.
The Makonde live in Gasi, Mwangwei and Ramisi in Kwale. They are also found in Kilifi and Taita-Taveta Counties. Most of them came to Kenya to work as farm hands in sisal and sugar plantations.
They got citizenship after many years of seeking to be recognized as Kenyans. It took them a long trek from Kwale to Nairobi and many difficulties along the way as part of their protests which finally earned them the citizenship.
By James Muchai