We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Citizenship Law in Africa

A Comparative Study

Bronwen Manby

Publication Year: 2012

Few African countries provide for an explicit right to a nationality. Laws and practices governing citizenship effectively leave hundreds of thousands of people in Africa without a country. These stateless Africans can neither vote nor stand for office; they cannot enrol their children in school, travel freely, or own property; they cannot work for the government; they are exposed to human rights abuses. Statelessness exacerbates and underlies tensions in many regions of the continent. Citizenship Law in Africa, a comparative study by two programs of the Open Society Foundations, 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 rights norms. The report covers topics such as citizenship by descent, citizenship by naturalisation, gender discrimination in citizenship law, dual citizenship, and the right to identity documents and passports. It is essential reading for policymakers, attorneys, and activists. This second edition includes updates on developments in Kenya, Libya, Namibia, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe, as well as minor corrections to the tables and other additions throughout.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.4 KB)

read more

Sources and acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (30.2 KB)
pp. v-vi

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...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (19.5 KB)
pp. vii

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...


pdf iconDownload PDF (19.5 KB)
pp. viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (49.3 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (77.6 KB)
pp. 1-17

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...

read more

International norms on citizenship

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.0 KB)
pp. 18-27

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...

read more

Citizenship under colonial rule

pdf iconDownload PDF (56.2 KB)
pp. 28-31

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...

read more

The basis of citizenship law today

pdf iconDownload PDF (42.4 KB)
pp. 32-33

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...

read more

Right to a nationality

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.1 KB)
pp. 34-38

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...

read more

Citizenship by descent

pdf iconDownload PDF (52.6 KB)
pp. 39-41

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...

read more

Racial and ethnic discrimination

pdf iconDownload PDF (45.5 KB)
pp. 42-44

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...

read more

Gender discrimination

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.4 KB)
pp. 45-54

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...

read more

Proof of nationality

pdf iconDownload PDF (52.2 KB)
pp. 55-57

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...

read more

Dual citizenship

pdf iconDownload PDF (58.3 KB)
pp. 58-63

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...

read more

Citizenship by naturalisation

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.0 KB)
pp. 64-72

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...

read more

Citizenship requirements for public office

pdf iconDownload PDF (53.1 KB)
pp. 73-75

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...

read more

Rights for the African diaspora

pdf iconDownload PDF (41.2 KB)
pp. 76-77

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...

read more

Loss and deprivation of citizenship

pdf iconDownload PDF (68.9 KB)
pp. 78-85

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...

read more

Right to identity documents and passports

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.0 KB)
pp. 86-87

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...

read more

Citizenship as a “durable solution” for refugees

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.1 KB)
pp. 88-95

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

pdf iconDownload PDF (46.2 KB)
pp. 96-99


pdf iconDownload PDF (60.7 KB)
pp. 100-109

About the Author, Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (657.3 KB)

E-ISBN-13: 9781920489588
Print-ISBN-13: 9781920489588

Page Count: 122
Publication Year: 2012