Stateless Pemba community to become Kenyan citizens

Richard Kagoe - BBC News, Nairobi

Kenya’s government has officially recognized the stateless Pemba community as an ethnic group.

In a gazette notice, President William Ruto said the decision was taken after considering petitions by various parliamentary committees pushing for the recognition of the community.

The recognition will allow community members to be integrated into society and have access to essential services such as education, health care, social protection, financial services and formal job market.

The more than 8,000 community members – who have settled in Kenya’s coastal counties of Kwale, Kilifi, Mombasa and Lamu – have been stateless for decades.

Majority of them are involved in deep sea fishing and subsistence farming as their main economic activity.

They have complained of being arrested by Kenyan police and the coast guard for lacking identification documents.

The decision has been welcomed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and human rights groups who have been pushing for the recognition.

Members claim they are descendants of migrants from Zanzibar during the reign of Sultan Bin Khalifa in the late 1800s.

The Kenya government has in recent years recognised other previously stateless people including the Makonde, Shona, and the South Asian community.

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