The government has kicked off the registration of members of the Pemba community as citizens of Kenya.
Immigration and Citizen Services PS Julius Bitok launched the exercise at the Karisa Maitha grounds in Kilifi following a proclamation by President William Ruto on January, 30th 2023 that conferred citizenship to the community that traces its origins to the Island of Pemba.
PS Bitok said the registration was intended to end ‘statelessness’ that the Pemba people have been condemned to for decades.
Over 5,000 members of the indigenous community are expected to register during the exercise.
With the recognition of citizenship, the community can now benefit from the rights and privileges of citizenship including access to important registration documents such as Identity Cards (IDs) and the Kenyan passport that the Pemba could not access before, the PS said.
“We want the Pemba community to take full advantage of their new status to fully integrate social-economically with the rest of Kenyan communities. We want them to pursue their full potential without the hindrances associated with ‘statelessness,” Bitok said.
The Pemba community is famous for its seafaring and fishing skills. They fled to Kenya in the 60s due to the upheavals triggered by the Zanzibar revolution in 1964. Many chose not to go back even after political order was restored on the Island.
With the registration, the Pemba becomes the third community to be granted Kenyan citizenship in the last decade after the Shona and the Makonde.
PS Bitok said the government will review the fate of around 6,000 living in the country but whose communities are unrecognized and are therefore regarded as stateless.
Speaking at the same event, Kilifi Governor Gideon Mungaro said the recognition will protect Pemba fishermen from discrimination and harassment by law enforcers.
Kilifi North MP Owen Baya who fronted the Parliamentary legislation that paved way for the Presidential decree on the Pemba urged the government to consider the community for state jobs under the marginalized groups category.
The event was also attended by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees representative to Kenya, Caroline Buren.