Census Says It Sees Little Fake Data; Critics Say It’s Not Looking

Responding to criticism that a shortened schedule jeopardized data quality, the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday said less than one-half of 1% of census takers interviewing households for the 2020 head count may have falsified their work, suggesting such problems were few and far between. The statistical agency said in a statement that a preliminary look at the data suggests 0.4% of the hundreds of thousands of census takers, also known as enumerators, may have either falsified data or performed their jobs unsuccessfully. The Census Bureau issued its statement after a report from its watchdog agency Wednesday that expressed concerns over lapses in quality control checks on the data used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets and how $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed each year. The lapses raised concerns about the quality of the census data, according to the report by the Office of Inspector General. FILE – Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, census worker Ken Leonard wears a mask as he helps at a U.S. Census walk-up counting site set up for Hunt County in Greenville, Texas, July 31, 2020.The report said the Census Bureau failed to complete 355,000 reinterviews of households to verify their information was accurate. Reinterviews also were not conducted with more than a third of the census takers who completed a household interview, and 70,000 cases that were red flagged for reinterviews were given a pass even though a census clerk was unable to determine if the original interview data was correct, the report said. About a third of the nation’s 130 million households required visits from census takers, while residents in the remaining two-thirds of households self-responded either online, by phone or by mail. Because of the failure to conduct the reinterviews, the Census Bureau can’t provide a full picture of the falsification that may have taken place, said Rob Santos, president of the American Statistical Association. “Just like with COVID testing, you won’t find it if you don’t look for it,” Santos said Thursday in an email. Plus, there are other concerns about data quality besides falsification, such as inconsistent responses and the reliance on getting information from neighbors or landlords when residents of a household were unavailable, he said. “Where are the assessments of these aspects of quality?” Santos said. “They are arguably more important than falsification because they will be more prevalent.” The Associated Press has documented cases of census takers being pressured to enter false information into a computer system about homes they had not visited so they could close cases during the waning days of the once-a-decade national headcount. Other census takers told the AP that they were instructed to make up answers about households where they were unable to get information, in one instance by looking in the windows of homes and in another by basing a guess on the number of cars in a driveway or bicycles in the yard.  The Census Bureau announced it will miss Thursday’s deadline for turning in the numbers used for divvying up congressional seats but aims to deliver a population count of each state in early 2021, as close to the missed deadline as possible. In a year-end blog post, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said 2020 — a year when the agency was conducting the census amid a pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes — “has tested our patience, faith and strength.” “But despite all the extraordinary circumstances happening around the world, we have succeeded through the tenacity and creativity of the women and men who work at this extraordinary agency,” Dillingham wrote Thursday. 
 

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‘We Have to Be Remembered for What’s Been Done,’ Trump Says on Return to DC

After weeks of vowing to win his fight to remain in office, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a video Thursday looking back on what he called “historic victories” and said: “We have to be remembered for what’s been done.” Trump, who has yet to formally concede his November election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden, posted the message on Twitter after returning to Washington early from his Florida resort amid a fight with Congress over a defense bill and coronavirus aid checks. Trump praised his administration’s accomplishments, which he said included its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding the economy. Trump, who had COVID-19 in October, frequently played down the severity of the pandemic and oversaw a response many health experts have criticized as disorganized, cavalier and that sometimes ignored the science behind virus transmission. Trump said that the United States had produced a COVID-19 vaccine in record time and that he had correctly predicted this would come before the year ended. Pedestrians wear protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic in Times Square in New York, Dec. 31, 2020.The United States is among the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 and leads the world in fatalities, with more than 344,000 deaths officially attributed to the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Trump had been scheduled to attend a New Year’s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort. The White House has given no reason for his early return to Washington, but it coincided with Trump’s fight with Congress over his veto of a major defense bill and his demand for increased COVID-19 stimulus checks, as well as a spike in tensions with Iran. Trump ignored shouted questions from reporters about Iran and whether he would attend Biden’s January 20 inauguration as he arrived back at the White House. Biden was expected see in the new year at his beach house in Delaware, although he was to appear on the ABC special “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2021.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the chamber, dealt a likely death blow on Wednesday to Trump’s bid to boost coronavirus aid to Americans, declining to schedule a swift vote on a bill to raise relief checks to $2,000 from the $600 included in a $892 billion relief package passed by Congress earlier this month. Unsupported claims Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress have largely stuck with him through four turbulent years, but he is angry that they have not fully backed his unsupported claims of election fraud or supported him over the stimulus checks and veto. He attacked Republican leaders in tweets this week as “pathetic” and accused the party of having a “death wish” if it did not increase stimulus payments for struggling Americans. FILE – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 30, 2020.McConnell on Thursday again rejected a vote on a standalone bill that would increase the stimulus checks, calling it “socialism for rich people” and “a terrible way to get help to families who actually need it.” The bill was passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Monday. McConnell also said there should be nothing controversial about approving the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Trump vetoed because it does not repeal certain legal protections for tech companies. “We’ve enacted an annual NDAA for 59 straight years and counting,” McConnell said. “In the next few days – the easy way or the hard way – we’re going to do our job once again. This body will fulfill our responsibility to the men and women who protect our country.” The House voted to overturn Trump’s veto on Monday. The Senate will convene again Friday at noon EST (1700 GMT) for a rare New Year’s Day session in which lawmakers are expected to cast the first of two procedural votes aimed at overriding the veto. If that succeeds, the Senate is expected to hold a second procedural vote on Saturday followed by a final vote on passage. Tensions with Iran U.S.-Iran tensions, meanwhile, have again spiked. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday accused Washington of trying to fabricate a pretext for attacking his country and vowed Tehran would defend itself even though it does not seek war. Two U.S. B-52 bombers flew over the Middle East on Wednesday in what U.S. officials said was a message of deterrence to Iran ahead of the first anniversary of a U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020.

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Tight Restrictions Across Italy for New Year’s Celebrations

Muted New Year’s Eve celebrations were expected in Italy, where tight restrictions are in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. The government has deployed thousands of police officers to ensure that rules are adhered to and that Italians do not hold large gatherings to celebrate the start of 2021. Adding to an abnormal end to the year is the Vatican’s announcement that Pope Francis will not preside over New Year’s Eve and Day services due to a painful back condition.Italians have grown used to the tight restrictions that come into place when the country is categorized a red zone. A person sits next to the Barcaccia fountain with Spanish steps in the background, as Italy goes back to lockdown as part of efforts put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Dec. 31, 2020.Until January 4, Italians will not be able to leave their homes unless they have filled out a self-declaration that explains where they are going. They will only be allowed to visit someone else’s home with one other person. Only people who need to go to work or have a health motive or an emergency are allowed out.All shops will be closed, except those for food and other urgent necessities like pharmacies. All bars and restaurants across the country will be closed except for carry out service.This restaurant owner said being placed in a red zone has meant working less than half what they were used to. The economic damage suffered by the sector has been significant with many fearful they will not be able to keep their businesses going in the future.Italian authorities have warned against large family gatherings. They have also tried to dissuade anyone from setting off fireworks to avoid accidents that could cause an extra burden on hospitals.While Italians are only too aware this will be a New Year’s Eve like they have never experienced, some are preparing to make the most of it, in their desire to bid this coronavirus-stricken year farewell.This man said, “We will see few friends, a relative or two and during times we are allowed to see each other.”Italy has a curfew in place from 10pm until 7am for the next four days. Travelling out of one’s municipality is also banned. Fines are stiff, so few are expected to take unnecessary risks.The recent news that COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Italy and are being administered has many hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that 2021 will be a better year than the one coming to an end. Still, not everyone in Italy is in favor of getting vaccinated, and many know the road ahead remains a long one.New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will also be quite different at the Vatican. FILE – Pope Francis leads the Mass on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at the Vatican, Dec. 24, 2020. Pope Francis is being forced to skip his traditional services because of a painful back and right leg problem. The Vatican’s spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the pope is suffering from “sciatica” and will not be presiding at a year-end prayer service Thursday evening and will also not be celebrating Mass on New Year’s Day, both inside St. Peter’s Basilica.The pope is expected to deliver his Angelus prayer at noon on Friday, which will be streamed online from the library of the Apostolic Palace.

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Into the Brexit Unknown, a Divided United Kingdom Goes It Alone

The United Kingdom exits the European Union’s orbit Thursday, turning its back on a tempestuous 48-year liaison with the European project for an uncertain post-Brexit future in its most significant geopolitical shift since the loss of empire.Brexit, in essence, takes place at the strike of midnight in Brussels, or 2300 London time (GMT), when the United Kingdom leaves de-facto membership that continued for a transition period after it formally left the bloc January 31.For five years, the frenzied gyrations of the Brexit crisis dominated European affairs, haunted the sterling markets and tarnished the United Kingdom’s reputation as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability.After years of Brexit vitriol, one of the most significant events in European history since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union will pass with little fanfare: The United Kingdom will slip away, serenaded by the silence of the COVID-19 crisis.Supporters cast Brexit as the dawn of a newly independent “global Britain,” but it has weakened the bonds that bind England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland into a $3 trillion economy.UK chief trade negotiator David Frost looks on as Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement at 10 Downing Street, London, Dec. 30, 2020.”This is an amazing moment for this country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, said in his New Year’s Eve message. “We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it.”As EU leaders and citizens bade farewell, Johnson said there would be no bonfire of regulations to build a “bargain basement Dickensian Britain” and that the country would remain the “quintessential European civilization.”But Johnson, the face of the Brexit campaign, has been short on detail about what he wants to build with Britain’s “independence,” or how to do it while borrowing record amounts to pay for the COVID-19 crisis.BrexitIn the June 23, 2016, referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 52%, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48%, backed staying in the bloc. Few have changed their minds since. England and Wales voted out, but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in.The referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the European Union, and fueled soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire and what it now means to be British.Leaving was once the far-fetched dream of a motley crew of “eurosceptics” on the fringes of British politics: Britain joined in 1973 as “the sick man of Europe” and two decades ago British leaders were arguing about whether to join the euro. It never did.But the turmoil of the euro zone crisis, attempts to integrate the EU further, fears about mass immigration and discontent with leaders in London helped Brexiteers win the referendum with a message of patriotic, if vague, hope.”We see a global future for ourselves,” said Johnson who won power in 2019 and, against the odds, clinched a Brexit divorce treaty and a trade deal, as well as the biggest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher, in the 2019 election.Supporters see Brexit as an escape from a doomed Franco-German project that has stagnated while the United States and China surged ahead. Opponents say Brexit will weaken the West, further reduce Britain’s global clout, make people poorer and lessen its cosmopolitanism.When the bell known as Big Ben tolls 11 through a scaffold, there will be few outward displays of emotion as gatherings are banned because of COVID-19 restrictions.FILE – British Union flag waves in front of the Elizabeth Tower at Houses of Parliament containing the bell know as “Big Ben” in central London, March 29, 2017.United Kingdom?After the United Kingdom leaves the Single Market or the Customs Union, there is almost certain to be some disruption at borders. More red tape means more cost for those importing and exporting goods across the EU-U.K. border.After haggling over a trade deal for months, the British government published 70 pages of case studies just hours before its departure advising companies on what rules they would have to follow at the new U.K.-EU border.The Port of Dover expects volumes to drop off in early January. The most worrisome period, it says, will be in mid- to late January when volumes pick up again.Support for Scottish independence has risen, partly because of Brexit and partly because of COVID-19, threatening the 300-year-old political union between England and Scotland.FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during an event at the European Policy Center in Brussels.Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has said an independence referendum should take place in the earlier part of the devolved parliament’s next term, which begins next year.After clinching the Christmas Eve trade deal that will smooth out the worst disruption, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen quoted both William Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot.”Parting is such sweet sorrow,” she said. “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” 

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Peacekeeping Mission in Sudan’s Darfur Ends

The United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur is set to end 13 years of peacekeeping in the vast Sudanese region Thursday, even as recent violent clashes leave residents fearful of new conflict. 
 
Fighting erupted in Darfur in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which responded by recruiting and arming notorious Arab-dominated militia known as the Janjaweed. 
 
A total of 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations. 
 
“The last day for UNAMID is tonight at midnight,” said UNAMID’s team leader in Darfur office Islam Khan. “UNAMID will not have any protection mandate after December 31, 2020.”   Sudanese children walk past an armored vehicle of the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) in Kalma Camp for internally displaced people in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, Dec. 30, 2020.The mission said the Sudanese government “will take over responsibility for the protection of civilians in the area.” 
 
Darfur’s bitter conflict has largely subsided in recent years and longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir — wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and other alleged crimes in the western region — was deposed last year. 
 
But the country’s transitional government is fragile, and ethnic and tribal clashes still periodically flare, including clashes last week that left at least 15 people dead and dozens wounded. 
 ‘Big trouble’ ahead Darfuris, many of whom remain in teeming camps years after they fled their homes, have held protests in recent weeks against the mission’s imminent departure. 
 
“The lives of Darfuri people are at stake, and the United Nations should reconsider its decision,” Mohamed Abdelrahman told AFP on Wednesday at Kalma camp in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.  
He is among hundreds who staged a sit-in outside the mission’s headquarters at the camp.  Sudanese internally displaced people hold a banner as they stage a sit in to protest the end of the mandate of the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), in Kalma camp in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, Dec. 31, 2020.Protesters held up banners reading: “We trust U.N. protection for IDPs [internally displaced people],” and “we reject UNAMID’s exit.” 
 
The U.N. said that the phased withdrawal of the mission’s approximately 8,000 armed and civilian personnel will begin in January and be completed inside six months. 
 
Longtime Kalma resident Othman Abulkassem fears the troops’ departure signals “big trouble” for Darfuris, leaving them at risk of further violence. ‘Great deal’ of improvement
 
UNAMID spokesman Ashraf Eissa sought to allay those fears.  
 
“We understand the concerns of the Darfuri population especially IDPs and other vulnerable groups, but the situation has improved a great deal over the past few years,” Eissa told AFP.  
 
“The responsibility now lies with the transitional government and the Sudanese people themselves to enhance peace and security in Darfur.” 
 
A U.N. political mission — the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) — will be installed in Darfur after UNAMID’s departure.  
 
It will be tasked with assisting Sudan’s transition, peacebuilding, and aid disbursement. 
 
Following last week’s clashes, Sudanese authorities said government troops will be deployed to the region to contain any violence. 
 
On Thursday, acting foreign minister Omar Qamareddine said UNAMID “contributed to achieving peace.” 

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China Accused of Offering Bounties to Afghan ‘Nonstate Actors’ to Kill US Troops 

Media reports say U.S. President Donald Trump recently received unconfirmed intelligence information indicating that China offered money to nonstate actors in Afghanistan to attack American soldiers.A senior Trump administration official Thursday confirmed to VOA details of “the declassified intelligence” published by the Axios news website the previous day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.“The intelligence was included in the president’s briefing on December 17, and Trump was verbally briefed on the matter by national security adviser Robert O’Brien,” FILE – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks during a press conference in Beijing, Nov. 13, 2020.“The international community has a fair conclusion on who is flexing muscles, waging proxy wars and stirring up problems that disrupt regional peace and stability,” Wang said, without elaborating.It was not known immediately whether President-elect Joe Biden has also been briefed on the findings about the alleged Chinese plot.“Our teams will seek to learn as much as we can about these allegations from the outgoing administration, and this is another illustration of why we need full cooperation, including from the Department of Defense,” an unnamed Biden transition official told CNN.U.S.-China relations have lately been strained over trade, intellectual property and other issues.  Washington has also been highly critical of human rights abuses China is allegedly committing against the Uighur Muslim minority in its western Xinjiang region.Beijing denies allegations it is suppressing rights of the Muslim community, saying they are part of a Western propaganda campaign aimed at maligning China.It was unclear whether the so-called nonstate actors China allegedly offered bounties to were part of the Taliban waging a deadly insurgency against the U.S.-backed Afghan government.Earlier this year, U.S. media reports indicated that Russia allegedly had sought to pay militants linked to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers.Trump, however, has not publicly called Russia out on the issue, dismissing the reports as “fake news.” White House Updates More Lawmakers on Alleged Russian Bounties on US Troops in Afghanistan News reports say Trump was briefed earlier this year, but US leader insists he was not The U.S. is reducing its troops in Afghanistan as part of a deal it signed with the Taliban in February aimed at ending the Afghan war, the longest overseas intervention in U.S. history. The Trump administration says that there will be around 2,500 U.S. soldiers left in Afghanistan by mid-January.The February agreement requires America and its allies to withdraw all their forces from the country by May 2021. It has also initiated the first direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to negotiate a power-sharing deal and a nationwide cease-fire.The intra-Afghan negotiations started on September 12 and will resume in Qatar on January 5 after a three-week break.Paris Huang of VOA’s Mandarin Service contributed to this report.

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California Mine Becomes Key Part of Push to Revive US Rare Earths Processing

In 2021, a more than 70-year-old mine in California’s Mojave Desert will become the center of an effort to revive an American mineral refining system that some say is critical to the country’s national security. At issue is the availability of rare-earth metals, which are needed for hybrid electric cars, smartphones and certain types of military equipment.  In fact, the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act directs most Pentagon systems to use rare earth metals that have been mined and refined outside of China within five years and dictates that the federal government give preference to U.S. suppliers of these materials in government acquisitions.As part of the U.S. government’s strategy to ensure safe and reliable supplies of critical minerals, the Defense Department has recently announced contracts and agreements with several rare-earth element producers. Among them is MP Materials, owner and operator of Mountain Pass mine, the only rare earth mining site in North America.Seventeen elements deemed critical to modern society were discovered at the Mountain Pass deposit, which, shortly after its discovery by American engineers in 1949, came to provide more than half of the world’s needs for rare earth minerals.FILE – Samples of rare earth minerals from left, Cerium oxide, Bastnasite, Neodymium oxide and Lanthanum carbonate are on display during a tour of Molycorp’s Mountain Pass Rare Earth facility in Mountain Pass, California, June 29, 2015.In recent decades, however, China has gradually gained a near-monopoly on these precious metals, controlling about 80% of the global supply chain even though it is home to only a third of the world’s rare earth reserves, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. That is largely due to the country’s domination in processing.As the U.S. has lost almost all its processing capacity to China, the ore mined in California must be sent to China for processing, making the mine essentially a supplier for the Chinese rare earths industry.Lost processing capacityAlthough they are called rare, these elements aren’t so uncommon on Earth. According to the USGS, the elements, while initially considered rare, “are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust.”In its 2020 annual report, the government agency said although some 20 countries worldwide are currently mining rare earths, the U.S., with its 1.4 million-ton reserve, remains home to one of the largest rare earth deposits in the world.While U.S. bedrock contains an estimated 100 years’ worth of deposits at its current annual consumption rate, China is home to nearly all the world’s processing capacity to convert the ores into materials that manufacturers can use.”The processing has always been the gap through which China has been able to kind of come to dominate rare earth metal production,” said Felix K. Chang, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.”The big bottleneck is the process capacity,” said Martijn Rasser, a senior researcher at the Center for New American Security in Washington.FILE – Matt Green, mining/crushing supervisor at MP Materials, displays crushed ore before it is sent to the mill at the MP Materials rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, Jan. 30, 2020.Mountain Pass revivalSince its 2002 closure as a result of environmental restrictions and competition from Chinese suppliers, there have been several attempts to revive the legendary Mountain Pass mine.In 2008, a privately held company called Molycorp Minerals was formed to reopen the site. For a few years the effort looked promising when Beijing restricted rare earth exports to Japan over a diplomatic dispute in 2010. The prices of rare earth on the international market were up and Molycorp’s stock soared.  However, after China started to increase rare earth exports in 2013, the company was struggling to stay solvent. By 2015, the company declared bankruptcy and was reorganized as the Toronto-based chemical manufacturing company Neo Performance Materials with processing facilities in the United States and six other countries, including four plants in China.The U.S., however, maintains high hopes for open-pit deposit on the southern flank of California’s Clark Mountain Range. Among grants worth roughly $13 million the Department of Defense awarded to the three companies, MP Materials, which acquired Mountain Pass in 2017, received the largest amount of approximately $9.6 million.On the other hand, the much-needed federal investment also could end up benefiting China as well as a Chinese rare earth manufacturer. Shenghe Resources Holdings owns about 10% of MP Materials. According to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, one of the MP Materials’ businesses is to “sell its rare earth concentrate products to Shenghe for further distribution to various downstream refiners in China.”Dr. William A. Saxton, founder and chairman emeritus of the American NGO Citizens for National Security, says among the many problems that U.S. faces in reviving the industry are environmental concerns.”We can mine, but we cannot process it because there are several problems, one of which is the problem of toxic waste,” Saxton told VOA in a telephone interview. He said hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land were withdrawn from exploration, and increased regulations caused the granting of multiple permits to take from seven to 10 years.Improving on that timetable, he said, will require overcoming objections from environmental organizations and government agencies.This story originated in VOA’s Mandarin Service.

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Shona Celebrate Kenyan Citizenship as Decades of Closed Legal Doors Open

Members of the ethnic Shona community in Kenya are celebrating their new status as Kenyan citizens after decades of being stateless.Nazizi Dube gazes at what is now her most prized possession – a document declaring her a citizen of Kenya.Dube is one of almost 1,700 ethnic Shona, and 1,300 ethnic Rwandans, who gained legal status this month after decades of being stateless.On December 12th, as Kenya marked its 57th independence anniversary, Nazizi, and other members of the Shona community in Kenya were recognized as citizens, following a decree by the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. “All the challenges that we went through with the statelessness status, we were very excited knowing that all has come to an end, it was a new beginning,” said Dube.A beginning that they hope will open new opportunities.  Diana Gichengo, of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, says that decades of statelessness left the community marginalized.“When they were stateless all their rights were violated, their freedom of movement was violated, they couldn’t leave the country, the few who managed to travel were forced to acquire fake or irregular identities to travel, they couldn’t access education,” said Gichengo.Ishmael Dlamini has run his carpentry workshop just outside the capital Nairobi for nearly 20 years without identification documents. As a Shona, his earnings were limited because he could not use banks or borrow, the way Kenyan citizens can.That has changed.Dlamini says, we will have the certificate of citizenship.  He says it will enable me to go to a bank or any other lending institution and get a loan to allow me to do more business.The Shona began arriving in Kenya in the 1930s, primarily from what is now Zimbabwe, and more came in the early 1960s as missionaries. But when Kenya became independent from Britain in 1963, most missed the two-year window to become citizens, along with their children born in the country.The push to have them recognized as Kenyans escalated over the past four years.Wanja Munaita, with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, welcomes the decision to grant the Shona citizenship.“Legal identity is really important especially now that Kenya is going into the digital identity because then they would have been left out of that system, because they didn’t have those documents,” said Munaita.Gichengo, of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which was involved in the campaign to end statelessness, says more needs to be done to help the Shona community.“We hope that they can be supported by both the national government and the county government just in terms of affirmative action, to catch up for the years of marginalization,” said Gichengo.An estimated 1,300 Shona have yet to apply for citizenship but, those waiting for their certificate say they are ready to prove their worth.‘’We want to show that we are not just a burden to the country – we are birds with bright feathers,” said Dube. “We are unworthy to be caged. We now want to fly and showcase our bright feathers.’’The U.N.’s refugee agency says Kenya is home to about 18,000 stateless people, most of them ethnic minorities.

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