Nationality Laws Leave Many at Risk of Statelessness in the Two Sudans

The combined effects of the new law on nationality introduced in South Sudan, and amendments made in response by the Republic of Sudan, may result in statelessness, argues a report released today by the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA), and the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) of the Open Society Foundations network.  Most of these people are of southern Sudanese origin living in the Republic of Sudan, in some cases for decades or even generations.

At the time of secession, Sudan and South Sudan moved separately to introduce new nationality laws, following their failure to achieve a negotiated solution on who would become the citizens of the new republic and who would remain the citizens of Sudan.  The new report, The Right to a Nationality and the Secession of South Sudan: The Impact of the New Laws includes a detailed legal analysis of the two laws, and the impact that they are having on those who were previously Sudanese nationals but whose claim to the nationality of one or other state may now be contested.

People of South Sudanese origin who lived for many years in the Republic of Sudan are being stripped of their Sudanese nationality, irrespective of the strength of their connections to the new state of South Sudan and their views on which state they would wish to belong to. Other populations who risk being adversely affected include individuals with one parent from Sudan and one from South Sudan; members of cross-border ethnic groups; and people separated from their families by war, including unaccompanied children.

“Some people living in Sudan may end up stateless, without either a Sudanese or South Sudanese nationality and lose their basic rights. People without citizenship or the papers to prove it will be deprived of the right to vote, to cross borders, and to access state health and education services,” stated Binaifer Nowrojee, executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa.

The report is written by Bronwen Manby, senior program adviser with the Open Society Foundations’ Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP), who has authored several books on citizenship laws in Africa.

The report is being launched in New York today, before an audience of representatives of national missions to the United Nations, UN officials and other interested individuals, at an event hosted by the International Peace Institute.

The report recommends that, in order to prevent statelessness, the Republic of Sudan should not strip an individual of his or her Sudanese nationality without proof that he or she has actually acquired South Sudanese nationality.  It also calls on the two republics to work together to ensure that potential citizens of South Sudan can easily obtain South Sudanese nationality documents if they are living in the Republic of Sudan.

The Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) supports individuals and groups to participate in matters that affect them and to demand fair treatment, service delivery and accountability from their leaders, institutions and governments. www.osiea.org

The Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) monitors and promotes compliance by African states with the requirements of good governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  www.afrimap.org