Read, Debate: Engage.
Read, Debate: Engage.
map tooltip
Humans

In pursuit of belonging: the Nubian struggle

April 25th, 2015
in:Humans
by:Cherotich Kenei
located in:Kenya
tags:citizenship, discrimination, Kenya, Nubians, passport, Queen of England, stateless, xenophobia

Peace of both mind and heart is what you get when you know that, as a being, you belong to either a family or a community that has accepted you as theirs. But sadly for many people around the world, such a feeling is only a description found in the dictionary. Marginalized people exist around the world: as stateless, aliens or burdens.

For the Nubians of East Africa, man’s greed and thirst for power during the scramble for Africa has left them in a predicament in modern day Kenya. They have been left unrecognised and without identity despite a century of living within the borders of East Africa’s largest economy. Their tale is heartbreaking but also a harsh reminder that where war and human voracity lives, love cannot exist.

Having forcefully been displaced from their home in the Nuba mountains in what is now central Sudan, the Nubians were conscripted into the African Rifles Battalion by the British to assist with their military expansion in what was known as the British protectorate and help administer law as Askari’s (kiswahili word for police). Their service would see them help the British fight both world wars. They owed loyalty to the Queen of England, as did all subjects under British rule during Africa’s colonization.

So why are the Nubians a stateless people in Kenya? Despite the service they rendered to the British army they were never settled before the British handed over power after end of colonisation. The British never gave the Nubians the 4197 acres they promised in Kibra location found in Kenya’s capital Nairobi and on three occasions in 1931, 1939 and 1950 rebuffed the Nubians' request to be repatriated back to their homeland in Sudan. The British saw that a deportation into Sudan would be displeasing to the Sudanese government - this despite the fact that they were the rulers over the nation.

Thus year after year, one political campaign after another, the Nubians have been victims of unfulfilled political promises: promises of better futures, better government services, but most of all a promise of belonging. The latter being the most valuable to the Nubians: to one day be recognised as Kenyan citizens. Thus, before such a reality comes to pass, the Nubians have and continue to face various challenges.

Speaking to Talib Ibrahim Mohammed a youth leader under the banner of the Nubian Human Rights Forum, he says the Nubian youth has been a group without hope for many years, though they stand steadfast in faith that one day all their grievances will be addressed.

According to him, the lack of a Kenyan National Identity Card (ID) has left many Nubian youth susceptible to the vicious poverty cycle that has grappled the community, as they are unable to receive support from state services. This lack of financial opportunities has played a role in the upsurge in crime and drug abuse within the community.

Being stateless has also denied the Nubian child an access to education. Thus, the majority of the Nubians are illiterate and those able to acquire an education find it hard to reach tertiary level as they have no access to loans or financial aid. This factor has had a huge impact on the illiteracy rate of the community despite education being a basic human right for all children, stateless or not.

The sheer lack of numbers of Nubians has also caused the Nubians to lack political leverage. According to the 2009 national census, the Kibra hosts roughly 170,070 people, and Nubians number only about 25,000. Fatma Abdulrahman, a paralegal of Nubian decent, says her community’s population and the lack of legal identification documents have left her people voiceless. As a community they have been unable to push for policies and laws that favour their social mobility.

Xenophobia has also played a role in insecurity along Kibra. Thanks to tribalism, this vice has had the Nubians looked down upon by other communities that have called Kibra home after independence.

These are some of the Nubian struggles faced in their quest to find belonging. For Shaffie Ali Hussein, an activist and chairman of the Nubian Rights Forum, his hope now lies in the implementation of justice: justice that has been denied since the 19th Century. He now calls for the international community to look into the plights facing the Nubians so that one-day they may be able to enjoy the rights that every global citizen enjoys.

Read more
Photo gallery: Kenya's Nubians then and now
Kenya: Nubian children should be given citizenship at birth
Nubians in Kenya: A People Denied

Article written by:
Cherotich Kenei
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
© Cherotich Kenei
Shaffie Ali Hussein - activist and chairman of the Nubian rights forum
Shaffie Ali Hussein - activist and chairman of the Nubian rights forum
© Cherotich Kenei
Fatma Abdulrahaman - Nubian Paralegal
Fatma Abdulrahaman - Nubian Paralegal
© Cherotich Kenei
Talib Ibrahim Mohammad - Nubian Youth Leader and member of the Nubian Human Rights Forum
Talib Ibrahim Mohammad - Nubian Youth Leader and member of the Nubian Human Rights Forum

Related & recommended articles

Signup for our monthly newsletter
The Best Picks from Our Editors
Send