Kenya's Nubians fight for rights

Youssouf Abdallah speaks to Al Jazeera about his people's struggle for recognition.


    The Nubian community in Kenya traces its roots to the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan. In the 19th century, the British forcibly brought them to East Africa as part of their colonising army. But after fighting for Britain in the first and second world wars, the Nubians were demobilised without any compensation.


    The British also left Kenya with no plan to settle the Nubians or send them back to Sudan. Today, Kenya looks upon the Nubians with suspicion because of their role in the British conquest of East Africa.


    The government does not recognise them as one of the country's ethnic groups and will not give them Kenyan citizenship. There are more than 100,000 Nubians in Kenya. They have no voting rights and cannot purchase land, or serve in the army or police force.


    As part of its coverage of stateless people around the world, Al Jazeera travels to the Kenyan slum of Kiberia to meet one man who says he has spent most of his life fighting for work and for  the right of his own land.


    This is his story in his own words.


    My name is Youssouf Abdallah, I am 73 years old and I am a fifth-generation Nubian living in Kenya.


    Our lives here in Kiberia are hopeless because there is no freedom, not like the freedom the Kenyans have.


    There are more than 100,000 Nubians in Kenya, yet they have no voting rights
    We are not entitled to own land and if we are ever evicted, there is no redress in court.


    The problem we have is that the young Nubian generation does not have jobs. They ask for it in the army and police but they do not get it ... so there are many who are unemployed in Kiberia for simply being Nubians ... and we all know you need a job to survive.


    We feel like Kenyan citizens but there is no escaping the discrimination against us. We are not even recognised and in the census we are classified as "others".


    The government has a budget for other people. Indians and whites feature in it but not us. There is no budget for us.


    For a group like us that moved away years ago, it really is difficult to be recognised under international law.


    The Sudanese government says we are Kenyans and that we represent Kenya's internal problem.


    Our lives here in Kiberia are hopeless because there is no freedom, not like the freedom the Kenyans have

    When we came here, there was no Kenya, no Nairobi, we contributed to the creation of the state but in return we got nothing.


    We just give thanks for being alive.


    What we need is land, to know that you own it and that it is yours. Now we have to get a permit to even build a toilet. That is the biggest injustice we face. We want to build property but we are not allowed to.


    We get identification cards (IDs) now but we are still marginalised. It does not get you anywhere. If an ID was a true symbol of being a Kenyan, then why are we not entitled to land rights as well?


    We have no land and cannot vote. We have no representation and no voice. But we have to fight for our rights here. We will not give up. We will die here and we will be buried here. We are Kenya.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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