- The Makonde became the 43rd tribe of Kenya after being granted citizenship by the government in 2017 after decades of statelessness.
- The Makonde community are believed to have come to Kenya in the 1940s as labourers in sisal and sugar plantation in the coast.
Kwale Makonde community members have decried alienation in employment opportunities and useful development projects.
According to their chairman Thomas Nguli, some local leaders and residents still perceive them as stateless individuals and not counted as important members of the society.
The Makonde became the 43rd tribe of Kenya after being granted citizenship by the government in 2017 after decades of statelessness.
To date, about 5,000 Makonde community members have National ID cards. The last census data indicated that they were 3,764, according to Nguli.
Recently, new Makondes received IDs, mostly those who were previously left out in the first registration exercise and the underage ones.
The Makonde have struggled for citizenship with more than three times failed attempts of pushing for state recognition until October 2016 when they trekked from Kwale to State House in Nairobi asking an end to their statelessness.
Speaking in an interview at his home in Mwabungo, Nguli said it is heartbreaking that the Makonde have to carry the title of non-citizens even after the government registered and recognised them as Kenyans.
“Some people still treat us as visitors regardless of whether we have IDs or not. This is a burden we have to bear each day,” he said.
Nguli said the outdated perception has cost them employment opportunities and inclusion in the community and national government beneficial projects.
The Makonde chairperson alleged that despite being the minority group they are left out of crucial community discussions and their views are not prioritised.
He said a section of leaders have been making decisions on their behalf, denying them equal opportunities to express their views in matters of politics and development as required by the Constitution.
Nguli said some malicious people take advantage of their vulnerability to exploit their rights and benefit at their expense.
“There are individuals soliciting money from humanitarian organisations using our names for their own benefit,” he said.
The Makonde community are believed to have come to Kenya in the 1940s as labourers in sisal and sugar plantation in the coast.
In Kwale, the Makonde are largely found in Makongeni, Kinondo but others are scattered in Lunga-Lunga because they used to work for the Ramisi Sugar company plantations and sisal farms in Msambweni.
Many of the Makonde people have heavily intermarried with the residents within the county but the prolonged period of non-citizenship made some lay low for fear of being known.
Many did not manage to get proper education and jobs because of lack of IDs. They have to survive on casual jobs to earn a living.
Nguli pleaded with the residents to see them as humans because they are also Kenyans and entitled to every right outlined by the Constitution.
He warned politicians against inciting the residents against them as the general election nears.
The chairman said the politics of dividing people based on tribalism is obsolete and poisonous to national unity and development.
“The expected leaders should shun divisive politics and campaign for equality and peaceful coexistence because we are all Kenyans,” he said.
He, however, commended President Uhuru Kenyatta for granting them citizenship and efforts made towards ending statelessness.
In 2011, Parliament passed the Citizenship and Immigration Act as the law to govern issues of statelessness.
It is an initiative that saw Hindus and Shonas also obtain citizenship and processes are ongoing to have the Pembas recognized.
Nguli said the Makonde people currently own land, bank accounts, sim cards and access crucial government services following the issuance of IDs by the government.
At the same time, Nguli joined other Kenyans in sensitising the Makondes to register as voters.
He said it is through voting that they will be able to choose the right leaders and help bring development.
(edited by Amol Awuor)