1,649 members of the Shona community have Wednesday been issued with citizenship certificates.

The Shona community has been in Kenya for more than 50 years, many of them born and raised here, but they were not previously recognised as Kenyan nationals and had no official status in Zimbabwe from where they arrived in the 1960s.

Stateless people often lack the documentation necessary to attend school, open a bank account, get a job, passport or mobile phone, or enter government buildings, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).

Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i speaking at the Windsor Hotel in Kiambu County announced that the process to grant Kenyan citizenship to eligible but currently stateless persons in the country will be concluded before this year’s Jamhuri Day celebration adding that the process will be undertaken without compromising national security.

“The last of stateless people in the country who qualify for Kenyan citizenship will have their status regularized by December this year,” he said.

The CS at the same time said although the country was committed to redressing the plight of stateless persons and communities living in the country in line with Human Rights and International Conventions, the process of conferring Kenyan citizenship will be tempered with the larger national security interests.

The CS further revealed that the Directorate of Immigration Services, the National Registration Bureau (NRB), and the Department of Civil Registration will confer citizenship on the Sagaf community of Tana River.

1,649 members of the Shona community were granted Kenyan citizenship by the Kenyan Government as part of the commitment to redress the statelessness of persons and communities living in Kenya.

The community will be the last batch of stateless persons in the country targeted for the exercise.

Following the promulgation of the Constitution that provided for the State to confer Kenyan citizenship on stateless persons, over 3,000 people have formally acquired local citizenship.

In 2016, 1,496 members of the Makonde community living in Kwale County officially became Kenyans after the Government granted them citizenship.

On Tuesday, Dr Matiang’i said the Government will continue working with international agencies involved in migration to assimilate bonafide individuals.

“This is a strong demonstration of how we respect the human rights of our people,” he said, adding that Kenya remains hospitable for all Africans who wish to live and engage in legitimate economic activities in the country.

Dr Matiang’i stated that all individuals will be subjected to rigorous background checks, name by name, and meticulously verified to avoid potential devaluation of Kenyan citizenship and winnow out criminal aliens from the country.

The CS said, “We have recently deported several people who obtained identity documents fraudulently, and we will continue cleaning up our systems ruthlessly. Some of them find ways of mingling and interweaving themselves with criminals in our midst, and we have a duty to ensure that our country remains safe and secure.”

The intention is to flatten the barriers to adjustment of citizenship status and social integration, and the process is set to be expeditious due to the capacity adjustment in the immigration quality control.

One of the improvements made so far is the simultaneous processing of citizenship certificates and identity card.

By Fred Azelwa.