In the wake of the Kenyan government granting citizenship to nearly 1,700 people of Shona origin, who settled in the East African country from Zimbabwe in the 1930s, the SADC has been called upon to take a leaf and follow suit in being tolerant to other nationals.
It is estimated that there are about three million Zimbabweans dotted around the SADC region and beyond who left the country in search of greener pastures as the country’s economy continues to dwindle.
On Sunday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta granted full citizenship to the tribe, which had been stateless for decades.
Political leader, Herbert Chamuka of the Ideas Party of Democracy urged African governments to emulate the Uhuru Kenyatta-led government on their bold step of conferring citizenship to Africans regardless of their tribal affinity, religious affiliation, and ancestral origin.
“We are really thankful to President Kenyatta on granting the Shona community citizenship. They now belong somewhere. This should be emulated by other African countries.
“If you look at other SADC countries, there is a huge intolerance for other citizens from the region. Some are arrested while others are deported but we are just but brothers and sisters.
“Kenya has set a hugely positive example for us all, they didn’t deport the Shona people. The embraced them for years and this is what SADC states must try to do, “Chamuka said.
He noted that SADC leaders are to blame as they do not tell each other the truth during their meetings. He accused them of being pretentious.
“When they neet, they laugh together, drink and wine but they do not make efforts to try and resolve the issue of migration. There must be unity and tolerance in SADC,” Chamuka retorted.
His sentiments were echoed by South African opposition leader, Julias Malema, who challenged African governments to emulate the move by Kenya.
His Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) expressed pride in Kenya for setting an example in creating a Pan -Africanist community of African nations which is a recognition of the quest for universal citizenship of Africans in Africa.
“The EFF Congratulates the Kenyan Government for the conferment of citizenship to fellow Africans who have been In Kenya since the early 60s and 70s but remained stateless ever since, we are proud of you and shall ever recognize you as a shining example of the society we are striving for,” the party said in a statement.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also praised the Kenyan government for the bold move.
Fathia Abdalla, the UNHCR Representative in Kenya said the move by President Uhuru Kenyatta to grant citizenship to Shona and Rwandese people is “a life-changing development.”
“We applaud the Government of Kenya’s decision to grant them citizenship, ensuring that they are fully included in society. This will also set a precedent for other countries to follow when it comes to resolving longstanding statelessness,” she said in a statement on Monday.
The Shona, originally from Zimbabwe, arrived in Kenya before independence and worked as church missionaries on British travel documents.
When Kenya gained independence, they had 24 months to apply for citizenship but most did not, leaving them stateless.
Shona community leader, Oliver Muregerera told VOA that Kenyatta, who invited them to attend the nation’s independence celebrations, made the pleasant announcement Saturday at Nyayo National Stadium.
“… We didn’t know anything about the date (for receiving the immigration status) today. We were just called by president Uhuru Kenyatta to come to the stadium. When we got to the stadium we were there just as people attending the celebrations.
“And then, amazingly, we were told that we were going to be given some registration certificates to note that we are citizens from today. People who were granted the status were 1,670.”