African Civil Society Calls for Action on the Right to a Nationality
On the 19th and 20th October 2013, representatives of the International Refugee Rights Initiative attended a meeting held in Dakar, Senegal under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, on the theme of the right to a nationality in Africa. Participants included representatives of civil society organisations from Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, as well as a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in West Africa responsible for statelessness, and of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, headquartered in the Gambia.
The participants welcomed the initiative of the African Commission to adopt a protocol on the right to nationality, and reiterated their support and commitment to ensure that the resolution is applied and to lend their weight to all efforts to ensure the adoption by States parties to the African Charter of an additional protocol on the right to a nationality.
Read the full communique.
Identities and the State in Sudan
In several states across the globe, the relationship between the state and its cultural, religious, ethnic, and tribal components is still an issue of fierce constitutional and political debate, both at formal and informal levels. A nation’s inability to properly deal with this sensitive question, through abiding by certain constitutional principles, makes it susceptible to instability and insecurity, and probably dichotomy and fragmentation. This article argues that general recognition of diversity in a specific state is not alone enough to guarantee peace and stability for that state. Having a state that is impartial and treats its diverse components equally is a conditio sine qua non of the stability and peacefulness of heterogeneous societies and states. The idea that modern states are not nation-states reflects the necessity of drawing a clear line of distinction between identities and the apparatus of the state that should occupy itself with the higher interests of its components and promote the peaceful co-existence of its diverse groups and elements, on the one hand, and lay down the rules that are essential to its advancement, on the other. The post-colonial history of Sudan unequivocally demonstrates that the country’s successive national governments have failed to do so. If the post-July-9-2011 Sudan is to avoid wars, conflicts, and further fragmentation, then it is necessary for the State to treat its identities equally and reflect such equal treatment in its policies.
Read the full report here (in Arabic)
Statelessness summer course
The Open Society Justice Initiative and the Statelessness Programme at Tilburg University Law School invite applicants for a summer course on statelessness, to be held in Tilburg, The Netherlands, from July 23 to 27, 2012.
Statelessness is a global phenomenon that currently affects as many as 12 million people worldwide. New cases continue to arise every day as states struggle with the challenge of ensuring that everyone enjoys a nationality. For those who find themselves stateless, the lack of a nationality commonly obstructs access to a wide range of other rights, to detrimental effect. Moreover, the harsh impact that statelessness has on the lives of individuals and the fabric of communities may contribute to social tension, forced displacement and even conflict.
IHRDA: Nubian children should be given citizenship at birth
As Africa marks the Day of the African Child, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) joins the Nubian community in Kenya to celebrate a first victory in their long struggle for citizenship. Nubian children have a right to Kenyan nationality and citizenship at birth.
CRAI Submits Comments to the Task Force Revising Kenya's Citizenship Law
CRAI recommends that the task force undertake a complete revision to the Citizenship Act, rather than attempting amendments to the existing text. The Act currently only includes some limited additional provisions relating to acquisition of citizenship by registration, leaving the general qualifications for citizenship by birth and registration to the (1963) Constitution. The new version should set out the complete framework for citizenship, repeating the constitutional provisions where necessary. The drafting of a new act also provides the opportunity to improve on the provisions of the 2010 Constitution where it was not as comprehensive as it might have been.
International Law and the Right to a Nationality in Sudan
Bronwen Manby, Open Society Foundations, February 2010
Among the many critically important choices that Sudan is
facing in the context of the referendums on the status of
South Sudan and Abyei are the criteria that will be established to
determine citizenship of the new entities. This paper argues strongly
that the negotiating parties should reject ethnicity as the basis for
determining membership of the new polities and instead adopt
the non-discriminatory norms established by international human
rights law, providing for citizenship to be granted on the basis of
any appropriate connection to the territory, respecting the rights of
individuals to opt for the nationality they prefer, and with the default
option based on habitual residence.
Peace and Security Council should protect the right to a nationality in Sudan
(Addis Ababa, 28 January 2011) More than two dozen civil society organisations called today on the AU’s Peace and Security Council to ensure that the rights of all Sudan’s existing citizens to a nationality are fully protected following the probable secession of South Sudan. The PSC has been following the implementation of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which provided for the referendum on independence of South Sudan.
Le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité devrait protéger le droit à une nationalité au Soudan
Citizenship Law in Africa
Open Society Justice Initiative & AfriMAP, November 2010
(Second Edition) Few African countries provide for an explicit right to a nationality. Laws and practices governing citizenship leave hundreds of thousands of people in Africa without a country to which they belong. Statelessness and discriminatory citizenship practices underlie and exacerbate tensions in many regions of the continent, according to this report by the Open Society Institute.
Citizenship Law in Africa is a comparative study by the Open Society Justice Initiative and Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project. It describes the often arbitrary, discriminatory, and contradictory citizenship laws that exist from state to state, and recommends ways that African countries can bring their citizenship laws in line with international legal norms.
The report covers topics such as citizenship by descent, citizenship by naturalization, gender discrimination in citizenship law, dual citizenship, and the right to identity documents and passports. It describes how stateless Africans are systematically exposed to human rights abuses: they can neither vote nor stand for public office; they cannot enroll their children in school, travel freely, or own property; they cannot work for the government.
Libya: Step Ahead for Women on Nationality Rights But New Law Still Falls Short; Government Should Ensure Full Equality
Human Rights Watch, 2 September 2010
(Beirut) - Libya's new nationality law granting women married to foreign spouses the right to pass their own nationality to their children is a significant move forward for women's rights, Human Rights Watch said today. But the law still contains some contradictory provisions that could be interpreted to perpetuate discrimination, Human Rights Watch said.
The year was 1923, and Sebi Rajab had worked for the King’s African Rifles—the British colonial army—since the end of the war. It wasn’t exactly what he had hoped to do with his life, but the British policy of forced conscription meant that people like Sebi had no choice.
Life by the Nuba Mountains—in present-day central Sudan—had certainly not been lush, but it had provided a sense of stability and belonging: it was a cultural and historical home difficult to leave behind. The British had made it very clear, however, that even once he was discharged, Sebi could not return to the mountains. Instead, he was expected to relocate to Kibera—a new Nubian home created by the colonialists on the outskirts of Nairobi, in what is today Kenya.
When the war ended that was where Sebi went, following the promise of fertile land and enough space for a large family. Little did Sebi know that his predicament would develop into a multi-generational struggle against poverty and exclusion.
In 1931, Nubians in Kibera asked to be repatriated to Sudan, a request which was repeated in 1939 and 1950, and consistently refused. So Nubians remain in Kibera—and in villages and towns across Kenya—to this day. Many are now fifth or sixth generation, and have no ties to Sudan—which didn’t even exist as a country when their ancestors were forced to leave. Indeed, according to a recent survey, more than 99 percent of Nubians in Kenya identify themselves as Kenyan. But the government thinks otherwise.
How did this happen?
Submission on the South African Citizenship Amendment Bill, B 17 – 2010, by the Citizenship Rights Africa Initiative
9 August 2010
The Citizenship Rights Africa Initiative (CRAI), a civil society coalition working on nationality rights in Africa, welcomes the opportunity to comment on the South African Citizenship Amendment Bill, B–17, 2010, which will amend the Citizenship Act, 1995 (as already amended in 1997 and 2004). We also welcome some of the provisions of the bill. We do, however, have concerns about the proposed amendments to and some existing provisions of South African citizenship law, which are expanded below. In relation to the amendments, we are especially concerned by the new provision on loss of nationality and the requirement that someone seeking to naturalise as a South African must renounce another nationality if their other actual or potential nationality is of a country that does not allow dual nationality.
In light of these concerns, and some lack of clarity in both the proposed amendments and the original text, we suggest that South Africa consider a complete revision of the Citizenship Act. We attach to this submission general recommendations on the content of nationality laws in Africa that were developed on the basis of extensive consultation as part of the CRAI
campaign and are included in a report published by the Open Society Foundations in 2009, Citizenship Law in Africa: A Comparative Study.
Read the full submission.
Cabinet approves amendment of Namibian Citizenship Act
WINDHOEK - Cabinet has authorised the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration to seek an amendment of Section 3 and 5 of the Namibian Citizenship Act (Act 14 of 1990).
This means Home Affairs and Immigration will extend the period for acquiring Namibian citizenship by marriage from the current two years to 10 years of marriage.
Cabinet further authorised the ministry to extend the period for citizenship by naturalisation from the current five to a 10-year period. Cabinet instructed the ministry to submit the Amendment Bill to the Ministry of Justice for scrutiny of the legal language before it is debated in the National Assembly.This comes after the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration approached Cabinet with a request to amend Section 3 and 5 of the Namibian Citizenship Act, (Act 14 of 1990).
The ministry also sought permission to extend the period for acquiring Namibian citizenship by marriage from two years to 10 years and to extend the period of acquiring citizenship by naturalisation from five to 10 years.