Statelessness is a global issue that the government of Kenya is committed towards resolving. The Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011 defines a stateless person as someone who does not have any enforceable claim to the citizenship of any recognized state and has been living in Kenya for a continuous period since 12th December, 1963.
Some communities came to Kenya during the colonial Period as missionaries (Shona), laborers in tea and sisal farms (Makonde, Wanyarwanda) and failed to register themselves at independence when a two year window was given to register. After the two years window period, it was not possible to register stateless people in the country because in the first Constitution did not contain provisions to register them. Some who were descendants of British overseas citizens became stateless when the United Kingdom changed its citizenship laws.
The government is committed towards adopting suitable policies, having acceded to the 1954 convention on the status of stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the reduction of Statelessness among others. The Government continues to render different services to Stateless persons in Kenya which include giving birth certificates within six months of birth, access to health services and education, thus ensuring inclusion of stateless persons.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS DONE
The government has made the following strides:
Recognizing Statelessness and Providing avenues to register them in law.
Amendment of the law to provide for extension of the registration period from five years to seven years
Re-establishment of the taskforce on Statelessness through gazette notice number 7881/2019 and further extended vide Kenya Gazette notice 9772/2020 of 20th November 2020.
Identification of Communities claiming statelessness in Kenya which include, Makonde, Shona, Ghanaian, Sobayeni among others.
Recognition of the members of the Nubian Community as citizens of the Republic of Kenya.
Three thousand, two hundred and twenty one (3,221) stateless persons have so far been registered since promulgation of the current constitution. These include; one thousand four hundred and ninety six (1,496) stateless persons from Makonde Community, one thousand six hundred and fifty nine 1,659) stateless persons from Shona community, fifty two (52) stateless persons from Asian Community, eleven (11) stateless persons from Rwandese Community and three (3) stateless persons from Ghanaian community as citizens of Kenya.
Statelessness is a human right issue therefore deprivation of nationality infringes upon the right of the individual. It is important for the nationality security and economic reasons of the country. When they are identified and registered the government is able to know their details and it enables them to engage in economic activities.
The National Taskforce for the Identification and Registration of Eligible Stateless Persons as Kenya Citizens was appointed and gazette on 21st August, 2019 by the Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
The formation and appointment of the Task force was informed by the presence of communities which claimed to be stateless within the country and also as one of the pledges made during the Brazzaville Declaration Ministerial Conference on Statelessness towards eradication of stateless in the country.
The Task force was given several tasks the main one as implied in the Taskforce’s name being identification and registration of eligible Stateless Persons as Kenyan Citizens.
The government appeals to The International Community to accept that statelessness exists, and should align laws to address and remedy the situation. Furthermore they should identify and register stateless person and those at the risk of statelessness.
The Government of Kenya is committed towards eradication of statelessness and will continue to provide protection for the stateless persons by ensuring that they continually receive their basic human rights.
Alexander Muteshi, CBS,OGW, 'ndc'(K)
DIRECTOR GENERAL, Immigration and Citizens Services