Why Kenya is suddenly gifting citizenship to immigrants

The immigrant vote is likely to be critical in the 2022 presidential poll

By The Weekly Vision Reporter

In recent years Kenya has granted full citizenship to immigrants who for years have lived and worked in the country, most of whom were born, raised and went to school here. The situation applies to the Nubian community who call Kibra home, their ancestors came to Kenya from Sudan as porters for British troops during the second world war.

Nubians are also found in Uganda’s West Nile; former dictator Idi Amin’s community is closely related to them. The Makonde originally from Malawi were also made Kenyans, they account for a critical vote tally together with their kin who live among the Mijikenda at the coast of Kenya. The Shona community are originally from Zimbabwe and have become full Kenyan citizens. Like the Makonde, they are now free to register and vote in the critical 2022. 

In a two-horse race pitting deputy president William Ruto and veteran opposition leader, former prime minister Raila Odinga, any vote would count thus the critical importance of the “new” Kenyan voters

Political watchers say that in a closely contested election, like what happened in the USA in the 2020 elections, the vote from immigrants would be critical. In the USA immigrants voted almost to a man against Donald Trump who was accused of building a wall along the Mexican border to keep out migrants from crossing into the US.

In Kenya, migrants would most likely express their gratitude for becoming citizens by supporting any government-sponsored candidate. This point was not lost to Security Minister Fred Matiangi as he handed out identity cards to the 1,649 Shonas community in Nairobi this week. 

The “new” Kenyan voter is unlikely to vote against his “benefactor” in this case the government and chances are high that if Odinga is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s choice, then the immigrants will vote almost to a man or woman for him

But many agree that in a two-horse race pitting deputy president William Ruto and veteran opposition leader, former prime minister Raila Odinga, any vote would count thus the critical importance of the “new” Kenyan voters.

The “new” Kenyan voters are unlikely to vote against their “benefactor” which is the government and chances are high that if Odinga is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s choice, then the immigrants will vote almost to a man or woman for him.

And that would help consolidate the coast vote which has seen hard fighting deputy president William Ruto make serious in-roads through repeated tours to bankroll projects and mobilize support.

The Coast region remains critical with Mombasa County alone having many registered voters, Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu and Malindi making it an important vote basket for any serious presidential contender.

Winning with a razor-thin 50 plus 1 remains a waking nightmare for top presidential aspirants as even a 10-vote lead could well make any contender with such margin, the next president. This became manifestly evident during the 2013-2017 closely fought elections that saw Uhuruto run away with a slim victory easily contestable in court.

It’s against this unfolding political environment that the new Kenyan voters who will add to those turning 18, becomes so critical making many wonders whether their citizenship is a “coincidence” or a well-crafted move with eyes set on the 2022 presidential contest.

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