The International Observatory on Statelessness


The number of stateless people in Kenya is not known, though certain groups are at risk. Under Kenya’s Registration of Persons Act, citizens 18 or over must register with the National Registration Bureau and obtain a national identification (ID) card. Failure to do so is a crime. Groups with historical or ethnic ties to other countries face higher burdens of proof in the registration process, and security concerns have also created obstacles. The Nubians, a group originating in Sudan but residing in Kenya for over a century, along with the Somalis of Kenya (such as the Galjeel community), and the coastal Arabs have all experienced discriminatory policies that have led to statelessness.

Some evidence suggests that discriminatory registration procedures are waning, at least with respect to Nubians. In 2003 and 2006, the Nubian community filed complaints with the Kenya High Court and then with the African Court on Human and People’s Rights. Although neither case has reached a resolution, Nubians report greater ease in being able to obtain national IDs. In the early 1990s, the total number of Somalis in Kenya was estimated at hundreds of thousands, but the number has steadily declined. Citizenship of Somali nationals is not always recognized by the government, especially in disputed border areas.

In addition, women cannot pass nationality to their children born abroad. Children of unknown origin or who might otherwise be stateless, including some orphans and street children, are not automatically granted Kenyan nationality. Refugees cannot naturalize, increasing the risk of statelessness over time.