Lawmakers want the Pemba given citizenship

A Kenyan passport.

Lawmakers have approved a petition seeking the recognition of about 5,000 Pemba people as citizens.

A report by the National Assembly Committee on Administration and National Security urges the government through the Ministry of Interior to give the Pemba people relevant identification documents.

“Arising from the observation and key findings, the committee recommends that the recognised as an ethnic group in Kenya,” the committee says.

The report adds that the continued delay in recognising stateless communities by the government is a violation of the Constitution and statutory provisions on citizenship. It says a majority of Pemba people were born in Kilifi and Kwale counties and have integrated and coexisted with natives.

Pemba people have been campaigning for recognition by the government since 2015 to no avail.

Kilifi North MP, Owen Baya, who presented the petition to the House in November 2020, said the Pemba have been denied citizenship as they are deemed to be from a place called Pemba in Tanzania.

“I urge the President to recognise the Pemba as Kenyans during this years’ Mashujaa Day. Issuing them with the necessary documents should begin immediately, ” said the Kilifi North MP.

The Pemba are mostly found in Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale in the villages of Shimoni, Gazi, Mangwei and Kichakamkwaju. Not being recognised as citizens means they cannot register their children at birth, miss out on education, health and other social services, are excluded from employment, cannot open bank accounts or even register phone sim cards and their marriages are not recognised.

In their submissions to the committee, the Pemba said they are being victimised for the socio-political and governance that have been in place since Kenya’s independence. The petition says community members were in the Mwambao United Front (MUF) before independence, an organisation was against the Coastal strip becoming part of Kenya.

The community says nearly all Pembas aged 40 and above were apprehended and deported to Tanzania. On arriving at the border, they would quickly get back to Kenya as they had no relations in the neighbouring country.