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Registration of the Pemba Community Kicks Off

The process to register members of the Pemba community in an effort to issue them with identity cards has kicked off in Kwale.

This follows the recognition of the Pemba as an ethnic community in Kenya in a Special Gazette Notice issued on January 30, 2023, by President Dr. William Ruto.

Their recognition follows that of other previously stateless communities, including the Makonde from Tanzania and Mozambique in 2017, and the Shona from Zimbabwe in 2020.

According to the United Nations (UN) a stateless person is an individual who is not considered to be a national by any state under the operation of its laws.

It is believed that the Pemba people entered Kenya from Zanzibar archipelago before independence in 1963 and ventured into fishing as their main economic activity.

And when Kenya became a republic in 1964 after independence, the Pembas were neither registered as an indigenous tribe nor recognized as Kenyan citizens.

Principal Secretary (PS) for Immigration and Citizen Services Ambassador Julius Bitok says all Kenyans of the Pemba heritage will now be issued with relevant identification documents in accordance with the Constitution.

Amb. Bitok urged members of the Pemba community residing in the coastal counties of Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi and Lamu to come out in large numbers and register themselves as bonafide citizens.

The PS said their recognition as Kenyan nationals under the law puts an end to the community’s statelessness.

He said the decision to recognize the stateless Pemba community as Kenyans demonstrates the government’s unwavering commitment to ending statelessness in the country.

Amb. Bitok spoke at Kichakamkwaju area in Shimoni location of Lunga Lunga sub county of Kwale while supervising the issuance of the long-awaited Kenyan Identification Cards (ID) to members of the Pemba community.

It was joy and excitement galore as hundreds of the Pemba people turned out to be registered for national ID cards bringing to an end decade of struggle to be recognized as Kenyans.

Bitok said the government will ensure that the Pemba people are issued with identification documents such as ID cards, birth certificates and passports that will enable them to enjoy their rights as Kenyan citizens.

Accompanied by Kwale Deputy Governor (DG) Chirema Komba PS Bitok said the registration and issuance of citizenship documentation will enable the Pemba people to fully contribute to Kenya’s development and access their fundamental human rights just like other Kenyan communities.

He said the rights include access to education, health care, social protection, financial services and joining the formal labour market.

The PS thanked the community members for keeping the peace even as they struggled for recognition.

DG Kombo welcomed the national government’s decision to give the Pemba people citizenship saying this will allow members of the community to take part in national building.

Principal Secretary for Immigration and Citizen Services Amb Julius Bitok addresses residents of Kichakamkwaju area in Shimoni location of Lunga Lunga sub county of Kwale while supervising the issuance of the long-awaited Kenyan identification cards to members of the Pemba community. Photos by Mwanasiti Salim

The chairman of the Pemba community in Kwale Shaame Hamisi commended the steps the state is taking to resolve the long-term problem of statelessness for the Pemba people in Kenya.

An emotional Hamisi said the members of the community feel liberated since they would enjoy all the rights just like other Kenyan nationals.

“As the Pemba people in Kenya we have lived as stateless people since independence and trapped in legal limbo that has caused us untold suffering but thank God, we have finally been granted citizenship,” he said.

Hamisi said without the crucial national identity cards, the community faced many hurdles ranging from failing to secure employment, registering mobile phone SIM cards to opening bank accounts or even entering some government offices and business premises.

“But now once stateless Pemba people who number more than 7,000 see a future full of hope and relief,” he quipped.

By Hussein Abdullahi and Mwanasiti Salim 

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