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Newsroom Press release

Nubians in Kenya Appeal for Their "Right to Existence"

NAIROBI—Abdul Faraj, a Nubian community leader, called for the Nubians’ “right to existence” at a forum on Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya, on citizenship and discrimination. His appeal mirrors the extreme plight facing Nubians and others whose right to be citizens of the countries where they dwell has been violated.

Faraj was joined by other community leaders urging the Kenyan government to stop discrimination against Nubians and others denied citizenship due to their ethnicity.

The Nubian community in Kenya is descended from soldiers transported forcibly from Sudan by the British colonial government a century ago. Although over 100,000 Nubians have lived in Kenya for decades, they are unable to access Kenyan citizenship and remain stateless.

Lacking citizenship, Nubian families cannot obtain certain jobs, have limited access to education, and have no political voice.

The meeting—convened by the Center for Minority Rights Development, the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, and the Justice Initiative—brought together over 30 activists, academics, lawyers, and others to discuss discrimination, exclusion, and access to citizenship in Kenya.

Participants also heard from Galjeel Somalis, a group that, like the Nubians, have lived in Kenya for decades but that the state claims to be Somali, not Kenyan. In 1989, a government action separated Kenyan Somalis from those from Somalia: many Galjeel Somalis were branded non-Kenyans, and their identity cards were confiscated. The Galjeel were forced to move to a remote area of the country, with no water, grazing land, or basic amenities. Lacking identification cards, they cannot travel without fear of arrest.

The meeting was held as part of the Justice Initiative Africa Discrimination and Citizenship Audit, which is mapping ethnic, racial, and citizenship-based discrimination in African countries.

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