Kenyans of Asian heritage have been granted official recognition as the 44th ethnic group in the country.
The Kenyan government granted the status last week after years of petitioning by the Kenyan Asian community made up of about 46,782 people, according to the 2009 census figures.
“All persons, bodies and authorities within the Republic of Kenya shall recognize the community of Kenyans of Asian heritage as being Kenya’s 44th tribe,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in an executive order.
The community was formally inducted last weekend by the Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi who urged them to play an active role in public service.
“No one should discriminate against you, intimidate you or exclude you unnecessarily from all the affairs of our nation,” he added.
He commended them for their role in setting up health and education institutions as well as contribution to economic development.
While making their case for indigenship status, 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. According to the 2009 census, Kenyan Asians number 46,782, while Asians without Kenyan citizenship number 35,009 people.