Kenya's Stateless Minority
The Shona in Kenya originally came from Zimbabwe in 1961 as missionaries for the Gospel of God church. From the original twenty families who came, there are now estimated to be roughly 4,000 Shona living in Kenya - including some of the original settlers, their children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. Four generations in total.
The Shona are a group of culturally similar Bantu-speaking people from Zimbabwe and are most famous for having built Great Zimbabwe, a civilization, which thrived between the 11th and 15th centuries A.D. Today the Shona number roughly 10
million and are spread over Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique - as well as the small minority in Kenya.
The majority of the Shona lack a legal identity in Kenya, which creates multiple and far reaching problems for the group. Without Kenyan identity cards - which are required for anything from opening a bank account, to buying land, sending children to school, acquiring a business permit, or even allowing one to move freely - the Shona have been relegated to the fringes of society and the informal labor market.
Shona children are able to attend school in Kenya up to the level of class 8, but are required to show birth certificates in order to sit for their primary education examinations, after which children attend secondary school. Without birth certificates it is very difficult for most to complete their education. This forces them to drop out of school at a very young age. Many girls end up getting married and in general Shona children do not achieve full potential. Young Shona orphans, as well as non-Shonas, are usually adopted by Sisters in the church. There they are taught about the Shona religion and raised to become Sisters themselves.
Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, was friendly with the Shona community and even promised to grant them land at one point. However, he died in 1978 before this became a reality.