How former Kinoo Chief Kimemia helped Shona community out of statelessness

Thursday, July 29th, 2021 00:00 |
Chief Joshua Kimemia (Rtd). Photo/Benson Ninai

By Benson Ninai

Thursday July 28, 2021 will remain as the biggest day of the Shona community living at Kinoo and Muguga wards in Kiambu County after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i accorded them citizenship.

The community of over 3000 people have been living as stateless since 1970s when they came to Kenya as missionaries.

The fight for their recognition has taken years with area administration doing all they could to make sure they were given Kenyan citizenship.

Joshua Kimemia, who retired as Kinoo Chief last year, has lived with the Shona community since 1970s.

“I went to school with some of them but they could not go beyond Standard Eight. They were treated as aliens. Most of them grew up as illiterates because they were being discriminated,” Chief Kimemia (Rtd) said.

He added: “They could not get employed for lack of ID cards. They couldn't register for e-banking or access registration to government’s E-citizen portal for digital services.”

Chief Kimemia narrated how the community were not allowed to attend hospitals around Kinoo because they did not have identity cards.

“Most of their children were born at home,” he said.

Those in the informal sector were not able to register businesses or companies. It was also hard for them to pay for trade licences.

Their movements were limited due to lack of identification documents making it hard to market their artisan products, falling prey to middle men exploitation.

“I experienced their frustrations. I fought against the community's stigmatization. I lobbied hard for their children's right to education and inclusion in bursaries and scholarships. I also lobbied for their children's right to vaccinations and clinics,” Chief Kimemia added.

However, the former chief said he did not have any issue with the Shona because they are very peaceful people.

“At no time during my administration did I arrest any Shona person for breaking the law. They have never had any social issues as well. They have even intermarried with Kikuyus around Kinoo,” he narrated.

During Chief Kimemia's Administration, he was able to include the Shona community in the day-to-day activities in his area.

“We realized that most of their children were not going to school because they could not be admitted due to lack of birth certificates. We started enrolling them in school and in 2010, I begun helping them to get birth notifications so that they could use them in school. Since then we have ensured that no Shona child is not going to school,” Kimemia added.

Kimemia thanked Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) whom he said has been instrumental in the lobbying for the recognition of the Shona community in Kenya.

“KHRC came to my office and we started lobbying for the community to be given IDs so that they could be recognized as Kenyan citizens. The Ministry of Interior helped us a lot. I also want to thank President Uhuru Kenyatta for directing the relevant authorities to end Shona statelessness,” he said.

The Shona have now officially become Kenyans and will enjoy all services and benefits that come with it, including owning land. [email protected]

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