Asians in Kenya are seeking for official recognition as one of the country’s ethnic groups, asking the government to acknowledge their community as the country’s 44th ethnic group, with rights and benefits as ordinary Kenyan citizens.
According to a report in The Nation, the community called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to do for them, what he did to the Makonde in Kwale who were recently recognised as the country’s 43rd ethnic group after they complained of decades of marginalisation.
While delivering an address at an event last week, the executive director of the Mother’s Lap Foundation Farah Mannzoor said the Asian community believed they deserved the recognition because according to them, “we have exercised our duty as citizens.”
“Asians came here in the 1820s as merchants and masons. Later in the 1890s, they played an important role in the construction of the Uganda railway.
“The railway opened up the interior of Kenya and wherever it passed, trading centres sprang up. From that time, Kenya continues to enjoy trade with neighbouring Uganda and other countries,” Mannzoor said.
She emphasised the positive role the east African community had played in the growth and development of modern Kenya.
“Our diversity and sense of togetherness in good and bad times have clearly reflected our steady socio-economic development, not just in East and Central Africa but in the rest of the continent,” she added.
A sizeable Asian population exists in Kenya and much of east Africa. Indian migration to modern day Kenya began with the construction of the Uganda railway by the British between 1896 and 1901. Some 32,000 indentured labourers were recruited from Britain’s colony in India.
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