The International Observatory on Statelessness

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Visual Mission: Nubians in Kenya Seek Closure on Statelessness

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Twice the size of the U.S. state of Nevada in land mass, Kenya spans the equator and, with the Indian Ocean running along its southeast coast, shares borders with Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sudan. The country is a regional hub for trade, finance, and communication. Kenya provides shelter to almost a quarter of a million refugees.

Within the multi-ethnic fabric of Kenyan society is a group of Nubians who have historically been denied citizenship. Now numbering approximately 100,000 persons, their Sudanese ancestors either migrated or were forcibly moved to Kenya over a hundred years ago as conscripts of the British Army. When the British left Kenya, there was no provision for the Nubians for resettlement or land ownership in Kenya. Since they were not considered British citizens or protected persons under colonial rule, they could not access citizenship under the Kenyan Constitution. For nearly a century they have suffered the attendant consequences of statelessness, such as absence of legal protection, vulnerability to abuse and harassment, denial of land ownership, and lack of equality in access to social services.

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