A very severe human rights abuse that is rampant throughout Africa and has not gotten significant attention from human rights groups is denationalization – as the Open Society Justice Initiative puts it: the act of “depriving an individual of legal nationality.” These groups that are denationalized are particularly vulnerable due to their minority status.
Although the African Charter prohibits discrimination based on distinctions “such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status,” governments regularly ignore this policy and discriminate groups based on many of these attributes. According to the Justice Initiative “discriminatory stripping of citizenship has taken place in Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The victims of this form of persecution are unable to challenge it as it occurs under the guise of states’ sovereign rights.”
Denationalization can be executed for many reasons – groups can be denied legal nationality due to their ethnicity, citizenship can be taken away due to party affiliation, and individuals can be rendered stateless for any perceived threat against the state.
Some notable examples of individuals who have been denationalized are Kenneth Kaunda, Trevor Ncube, and Jenerali Ulimwengu. Kaunda was the president of Zambia from 1964 – 1991, but after his presidency in 1999 was declared stateless by the Ndola High Court. Kaunda, however, appealed this decision and was declared a citizen of Zambia in 2000. Jenerali Ulimwengu, on the other hand, was declared stateless by the Tanzanian government in 2002. Ulimwengu was a progressive Pan-Africanist who had served in parliament and often unveiled corruption and scandal in the government. As a result, the administration denied Ulimwngu citizenship without explanation. Trevor Ncube’s situation shows that it is not only political adversaries that are targets of being stripped of their citizenship. As the publisher of newspapers critical to the Zimbabwean government, officials confiscated Ncube’s passport and attempted to terminate his citizenship, but were unsuccessful.
The denationalization of entire groups, often based on ethnicity, is much more common than targeting specific individuals. These situations almost always coincide with other citizenship issues such as collective expulsion and the denial of ID cards. Examples include the stripping of citizenship rights of black Africans in Mauritania, Nubians in Kenya, and various migrant groups in Cote d’ Ivoire.
Egyptians married to Israelis to lose citizenship
5 June 2010
CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday upheld a ruling that orders the country's Interior Ministry to strip the citizenship from Egyptians married to Israeli women.
More information can be found here:
Statelessness in Africa: Turning Citizens into Nomads, p. 14 by Chidi Odinkalu, Winter 2007-2008.
Kenya: National Registration Processes Leave Minorities on the Edge of Statelessness, Refugees International, by Maureen Lynch and Katherine Southwick, 23 May 2008.
Senegal: Voluntary repatriation critical for protecting stateless Mauritanians, Refugees International, by Maureen Lynch and Dawn Calabia, 9 February 2007.
Côte d’ Ivoire: Address Root Causes of Conflict to Prevent and Reduce Statelessness, Refugees International, by Maureen Lynch and Dawn Calabia, 15 February 2007.
Where is Jenerali Ulimwengu Supposed to Go?, Pambazuka News, 21 February 2002.