At least 4,000 members of the Shona community who migrated to Kenya in the 1960s have been rendered stateless.
Originally from Zimbabwe, they came to Kenya in the 1960s as missionaries when the country was still under British rule. However, with the collapse of colonialism, the missionaries found themselves stateless.
Stateless people are denied the rights and benefits most people take for granted. These “legal ghosts” often live in poverty and are at high risk of detention and exploitation.
Few in the Shona community have a Kenyan birth certificate or identity card, necessary to attend school or university, open a bank account, get a job, passport or mobile phone, or enter government buildings, the women said.
Without citizenship of either country, the Shona are in limbo: unable to travel back to Zimbabwe or buy land in Kenya.
The Shona in Kenya keep themselves to themselves, bonded by their faith and meeting regularly at the Gospel of God church, brought to Kenya by their parents and grandparents.
The church was founded in 1932 by Johane Masowe, a Shona prophet who believed he was a reincarnation of John the Baptist and travelled the continent spreading the word.
Its members remain loyal to traditional cultural practices, like polygamy, which is common among their close-knit community. Girls usually marry as teenagers and greet men by getting down on one knee in the traditional way.
Most of the Shona community make a living from traditional crafts. Men are carpenters, masons and builders, while women weave baskets and mats.
The older generation pass their skills on to their children so that they too can make a living from their hands, but only Kenyan identity cards would allow the Shona to further their education and start businesses.
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