Video Release: the realities of statelessness in East Africa

Published: 31 Oct 2019


“A stateless life is a worrisome life,” says Mohammed Suleiman Ali from Tanzania’s Comorian community. Mohammed is not alone. Tens of thousands are affected by, or at risk of, statelessness in East Africa. Discriminatory laws, legal gaps and problematic administrative practices have left a number of communities unable to access citizenship or prove their nationality. In a series of videos, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, the Kenya Human Rights Commission and Dignity Kwanza explore the challenges facing communities that are stateless or at risk of statelessness in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.  In the words of IRRI’s Executive Director, Achieng Akena, “What do you do if you exist – but no one recognises you?”

Watch our country case studies here:

In Tanzania, the video presents the Makonde and the Comorian communities, who continue to face challenges accessing identity documents. It highlights the experiences of Mohammed Suleiman Ali from the Comorian community and his dream of ending statelessness. In Uganda, the video explores the challenges faced by the Maragoli community, whose access to citizenship is hindered by their exclusion from the country’s Third Schedule to the Constitution under which the country’s indigenous communities are listed. Edisa Namaji narrates her personal experience of these challenges. In Kenya, the video explores how statelessness prevents the Pemba community from realising their full potential, both socially and economically, through the eyes of Juma Yusuf.

Watch the community testimonies here:

The videos represent not only personal experiences, but on the broader context, they also reflect on the history of colonial borders and their role in creating statelessness today. UNHCR’s Senior Protection Officer, Benedicte Voos highlights some of the difficulties faced in addressing these challenges, particularly gaps in collecting data which inhibits a clear understanding of the realities experienced by the stateless. Commissioner George Morara, Vice Chair of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC), highlights the need to bring national laws in line with regional standards such as the Brazzaville Declaration and the AU Draft Protocol on the Right to a Nationality in Africa. Alton Ernest Chaula, the Government of Tanzania’s Focal Point for Statelessness, speaks about the concrete actions taken by his government and its progress towards eradicating statelessness.

Watch our thematic short-clips here:

Photo: Ms. Edisa Namaji, a Maragoli, western Uganda.