I find myself wondering what would catapult the citizenship equality discussion to the next level. We have seen grassroots organizations do a lot and invest heavily in assisting communities vulnerable and otherwise towards securing citizenship and nationality documentation and status. From a Kenyan context paralegals through their grassroots organizations work tirelessly to bridge the gap between government and the people by continuing to be champions. With a lot of evidence through paralegal case data and complementary efforts from Human Rights organizations, the profile of citizenship, nationality and statelessness has been raised in the country.
Although we have seen grave wins with palpable highlights such as the Makonde community being issued with citizenship and nationality documentation and the Nubian community in Kibra being issued with a community land title, my fear is that these wins were based on individual plight and some goodwill from the state, we are yet to see significant reforms that would ensure that such inherent rights are not only guaranteed and protected but encouraged.
My feeling along with many grassroots organizations and rights defenders is that we are at a precipice and that our only saving grace would be holistic legislative and policy reform along with adequate structures remain as the keys to equality in citizenship and nationality determination and sustainable end to discrimination.
The challenge has been getting government to buy into and commit to such reforms which also serve as the basis of widely acclaimed decisions like Nubian Minors and Ali vs Kenya and so I constantly ask myself; how do we build on the success of the Makonde and Nubian community to ensure legislative, policy and structural reform for a sustainable end to discrimination in citizenship and nationality determination and statelessness? How do we leverage all these along with other efforts like workshops, conferences and strategy meetings which are resource intensive in the struggle?
The efforts of CONCISE in Kenya have been commendable but then what strategies do we use to leverage such gains and what lessons can we learn from a global context?
What do the next steps look like? @cocolammers @lauragoodwin @mustafa_mahmoud @AndrewOchola @yasahkym @Lore @kasida_abdul @zena @Purity_Wadegu @Zahra @Naima_Rajab
Awareness, Political will and Implementation.
Let me start by quoting a story from an Article by Lady Justice Ongeri A.
One of my favourite stories is that of a farmer who owned a cow, a goat and a hen. One day a snake came into the farm and it happened that the hen was the first to be accosted by the snake. The hen ran to the goat for help but the goat declined to give any assistance telling the hen “that’s your problem, not mine.” Then the hen approached the cow, but the cow also refused to help saying “that’s your problem, not mine.” And as fate would have it, it was the farmer who was bitten by the snake and died the same day. That night, the few mourners who turned up had the chicken for supper. Thus, the hen was the first casualty. The following day, mourners increased and they had goat meat for supper, the goat was no more. Come the day of the funeral, the large crowd of mourners had to be treated to meat from a larger beast; and the cow is the one that provided the meat.
Read more at CapitalFM:: Understanding power of the Bill of Rights https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/eblog/?p=4872
Awareness- There is still a Lacuna in terms of how National the Issue of Citizenship and Statelessness goes. There is still more to be done to sensitize not only the affected communities but every Kenyan on the above rights. Some who may seem to come from ‘Major’ Tribes of this country tend to abuse that Privilege. It is only fair for me to state that not until The Government made the Birth Certificate a crucial document in the Education system, many Kenyans had not applied for it. More and More Kenyans need to understand that Statelessness is a major problem since it is the Key to the Enjoyment of most of the Political, Social and Economic rights.
The Makonde community was celebrated but if you were to enquire about what the history of the struggle is, I am sure a very small percentage of Kenyans would know. So how then do we ensure that there is awareness? we have Social Media which is a major tool for information dissemination; The use of Print Media; Documentaries and other forms of media.
Political Will- Looking at the Makonde being ‘granted’ Nationality and the Nubian Community their Land Title, the major factor behind that was that there was Political will. It is important that more and more leaders are made aware of the suffering of stateless communities and as such come up with more effective laws. In Kenya, Political leaders play a vital role in how the larger masses would view an issue. Take an example of the Marriage act and the issue of Polygamy and consent, it was widely talked about however just few parts of the Act were talked about. It is clear that there is more amendments that need to be introduced to streamline the various application process that up to now, with a new Constitutional Dispensation, are very Discriminative.
Implementation- This is the biggest step towards achieving a lasting solution in terms of citizenship rights and possibly Land rights. We have very good laws on paper, our Bill of rights is celebrated as being one of the best in the world, in it is the Citizenship Rights and better yet the right to Nationality for Children. It makes you wonder why some communities are still stateless or at risk of being stateless. There is need for the set institutions to be able to implement the set laws. Programs such as CONCISE go a long way in pointing out provisions, for example those that limit time, that may be a barrier in fully implementing the law and possible amendments of the same. The report on the Nubian Minor Case decision can also ensure that there is oversight and a cross check reference to what mechanisms the Government has put in place to comply with the decision and if the same is working.
Implementation is therefore a very Crucial step.
This is very good thought and a long term goal that we all want to achieve. I think it’s time we take it to the next level, Join hands and do advocacy jointly for all the Kenyan Communities that are at risk of statelessness. I believe that way the Government will see the seriousness of this issue.