“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

Introducing the Citizenship Rights Africa website

20 September 2016 | Bronwen Manby, Senior Visiting Fellow at the LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights
Citizenship Rights in Africa Initiative - Homepage

Readers of the European Network on Statelessness blog may be interested in the newly relaunched website Citizenship Rights in Africa Initiative. The website is intended as a resource for activists working for the eradication of statelessness and the realisation of the right to a nationality in Africa, providing them with comparative data and facilitating collaboration through information exchange about what others are doing.

The website hosts a database of news articles, reports, legislation and jurisprudence about nationality law, identification and statelessness in Africa, searchable by country, theme and type of media. There are now more than 3,500 items in the database, and it is constantly growing, with additions coming both from newly published documents and materials from the past. The earliest entry dates from 1911 (the Zanzibar Nationality and Naturalization Decree), and the latest probably from the day you are reading this.  While individual items are not translated, there are many entries in French, and there is a mirror site enabling navigation in French.

The website is hosted by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (headquartered in Kampala) on behalf of the Citizenship Rights in Africa Initiative, an informal network of organisations, individuals and experts working for the right to nationality and an end to statelessness in Africa. One of the main objectives of this network is to campaign for a protocol on the right to a nationality to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In July this year, the African Union (AU) Executive Council of Ministers formally approved the drafting of a protocol, on the recommendation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The database is organised by country and by theme. The countries are grouped into the five political regions of the continent recognised by the AU for the purposes of distribution of posts and other decision-making at the continental level—North, East, West, Central, and Southern Africa—and a Pan Africa page for developments touching all 54 countries. Each region has an overview page, as does each country, with “key resources” highlighted as the first documents to read.

The resources in the database include an almost complete record of the nationality laws of African countries, dating back to independence (there are a few gaps; and some may have not yet been uploaded – please ask), and there is an efficient filter function enabling the reader to choose just to display the laws and other regulations for a particular country or region. Similarly, it is possible to search just for reports of international bodies (or NGOs and experts); or just for decisions by national, regional or international courts or complaints mechanisms (including decisions by the African human rights bodies); or to filter by other types of media.

The thematic focus of the website is broader than statelessness, to cover questions around access to nationality more generally; as well as challenges related to birth registration and national identification systems. There are pages on the African and international standards; on acquisition and on loss of nationality; on discrimination on the basis of gender, and race, religion or ethnicity; and on dual nationality. There is quite an extensive collection of resources on access to nationality for refugees, one of the most pressing issues in Africa. In addition to pages on birth registration and on national identity documents and passports, there is also a focus on nationality and elections; both voter registration, and the many African politicians accused of being foreigners. The colonial history of African states brings a necessary category of resources on state succession, as well as on “internal citizenship”, featuring the challenges of recognition of citizenship for migrants from one part of a state to another.

An advanced search page allows the visitor to filter stories by all these variables, as well as by keyword for a free text search.

The CRAI website also has a blog page, at the moment with only a few contributions, but we hope to ensure more regular postings soon.  Please check back soon for an expected explanation of next steps on the proposed protocol to the African Charter.

You can sign up on the home page to receive a periodic newsletter (every 2-3 weeks) with links to the latest additions to the site.  Organisations working on statelessness issues in Africa may want to consider highlighting your work in a profile added to our network page.  If you have resources you would like to suggest for upload, a blog piece you would like to write on nationality and statelessness in an African country, or have other comments or questions, please contact us at crai@citizenshiprightsafrica.org.

For other updates, follow the twitter accounts @CRAIAfrica and @BronwenManby

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