Citizenship Law in Africa
A Comparative Study
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: African Books Collective
Title Page, Copyright
Sources and acknowledgments
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The report is twinned with a book on citizenship in Africa published by Zed Books during 2009 in its “African Arguments” series. The book gathers case studies of the practice of statelessness and citizenship discrimination in Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya...
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While every effort has been made to ensure that the tables and descriptions of the laws in African countries are accurate and up to date, very complex provisions have been simplified. Readers should not treat them as definitive nor accord them the status of legal advice. The provisions on citizenship...
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Laws and practices governing citizenship in too many African countries effectively leave hundreds of thousands of people without a nationality. These stateless Africans are among the continent’s most vulnerable populations: they can neither vote nor stand for office; they cannot enroll their children in school...
International norms on citizenship
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Legal recognition of nationality or citizenship is the most critical link between an individual and the state whose nationality is claimed. Yet international law related to nationality is relatively undeveloped by comparison to agreements on the regulation of matters of commerce, diplomatic status, or even human...
Citizenship under colonial rule
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As in other areas of law, differences in the legal systems of the colonisers have influenced the principles that have been applied since independence, though both African and European states have since amended and modified the principles on which their nationality law was originally based. At the same...
The basis of citizenship law today
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Most African countries—like most countries in the world—apply a compromise in their laws governing citizenship between the two basic concepts known as jus soli (literally, law or right of the soil), whereby an individual obtains citizenship because he or she was born in a particular country, and...
Right to a nationality
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All African countries, with the exception of Somalia, have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides in Article 7 for the “right from birth to a name” and “the right to acquire a nationality,” and for states to ensure the implementation of these rights, in particular where the child would otherwise...
Citizenship by descent
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Most African countries require descent from citizen parents before they accord a right to citizenship from birth. More than 30 countries provide a right to citizenship from birth on a nondiscriminatory basis for any child born on their territory (and in most cases also outside the territory) when either of the...
Racial and ethnic discrimination
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In half a dozen countries, citizenship by descent is explicitly limited to members of ethnic groups whose ancestral origins are within the particular state or within the African continent. Liberia and Sierra Leone, both founded by freed slaves, take the position that only those “of Negro descent” may be citizens...
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All African countries except Sudan and Somalia are parties to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia ratified the convention with reservations relevant to their nationality laws, mainly referring to the...
Proof of nationality
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The systems for proof of nationality are in practice often as important as the provisions of the law on the qualifications in principle. If there are onerous requirements or costs attached to proof of entitlement to nationality then the fact that a person actually fulfills the conditions laid down in law may...
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At independence, many African countries took the decision that dual citizenship should not be allowed: they wished to ensure that those who might have a claim to another citizenship—especially those of European, Asian, or Middle Eastern descent—had to choose between the two possible loyalties. Those...
Citizenship by naturalisation
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Most African countries permit, in principle, the acquisition of citizenship by naturalisation. In many countries there is also the possibility of acquiring citizenship by an easier process known, in Commonwealth countries, as “registration” and, in civil law countries, as “declaration” or “option...
Citizenship requirements for public office
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Many countries have rules prohibiting people with dual citizenship or those who are naturalised citizens rather than citizens from birth from holding senior public office, on the grounds that such office holders should not have divided loyalties. Only a few, including Ethiopia, provide that all citizens have...
Rights for the African diaspora
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Hundreds of thousands of people of Ethiopian descent live in foreign countries. While most left for economic reasons, political turbulence during military rule from 1974 to 1991 forced many others to seek refuge abroad, mainly in the United States and Europe. Many of these people have...
Loss and deprivation of citizenship
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The constitutions of only two countries in Africa, South Africa and (surprisingly) Ethiopia, prohibit the state from removing citizenship, however acquired, against a person’s will; and even in those two cases the protection is not as far-reaching as it appears on first sight. The South African constitution states...
Right to identity documents and passports
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Many African countries have national identification systems requiring adults resident in the country to register with the authorities, and frequently the national identity cards obtained from this process are critical to the process of applying for or proving citizenship and to the process of obtaining a passport...
Citizenship as a “durable solution” for refugees
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There are three “durable solutions” to the situation of individuals who have crossed an international border seeking refuge from persecution or from civil war: voluntary repatriation, local integration in the country of first asylum, or resettlement in a third country. Although voluntary repatriation to their home...
Appendix: Legal sources
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About the Author, Back Cover
Page Count: 122
Publication Year: 2012