Citizens Governance Initiatives

Sub-regional Conference on Citizenship and the right to Nationality in Central Africa

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Presentation Note

30 September – 01 October 2015

Context & Justification

Regional context (Africa)
All over Africa, thousands of people, including children are denied the right to belong, often in the only country they have ever known, because they are deemed “foreigners”. The reasons for their exclusion vary. They may be viewed with suspicion because they come from a group that straddles national boundaries, because they are not viewed as “indigenous”, because of gender-based discriminative laws that prevent their mothers from registering them or because they were not registered at birth. Failure to register children at birth is often the result of lack of education or related to the way of life of some groups, which presents obstacles to registration (for example nomadic peoples).

Viewed not to belong, people without a nationality or whose nationality is questioned are often denied deliverance of national identification papers and do not exist as citizens. What may at first seem a simple issue of documentation, often hides a mountain of discrimination. The excluded are denied the right to register their children at birth, to enter school or university, sit official exams or enter the public service. They are often forced to work without a permit, and unable to obtain travel documents or move inside their country of residence. They are also side-lined from political processes, unable to vote or stand for office.
Disputes over national and local belonging and differing conceptions of citizenship are at the heart of many of the most intractable conflicts in Africa.

African Union

Conscious of the problems posed by the fact that the right to a nationality is insufficiently recognised in Africa, the ACPHR at their 53rd session adopted a resolution on the right to a nationality in which they reaffirmed “that the right to nationality of every human person is a fundamental human right implied within the provisions of Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and essential to the enjoyment of other fundamental rights and freedoms under the Charter”.

The Commission called on Member States of the AU to respect that right, and tasked the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants to carry out in depth research on the questions related to the right to a nationality.” The ACPHR also called on “civil society and other stakeholders” to give their “full support”.

In April 2014, the ACHPR adopted a Resolution on the Drafting of a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Right to Nationality in Africa. African organisations and activists thus have an opportunity to ensure that standards set at the regional level are most useful for regional activists.

The Coalition for the Right to Nationality in Africa - CRAI

In response to this call, the Coalition for the Right to Nationality in Africa was created with the objective to ending statelessness and the arbitrary denial of citizenship. The Coalition responds to the challenge of guaranteeing for Africans the right to live in the community of their choice, pursue livelihoods and participate in the government of their countries without interference with their right to belong. The Coalition works to end the continuing impoverishment of the peoples of the continent, induced by conflict over the right to belong, insecurity and exclusion or citizenship-related persecution on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, colour, sex, political opinion, or social status.

Objectives of the sub-regional Conference for Central Africa

Cameroon and its neighboring countries of the Central African sub-region, as well as Nigeria, are witnessing a resurgence of conflicts due to the rise of terrorism, but also nationalisms and border conflicts. These situations often lead to populations’ movements and difficulties relating to the identification of citizens originating from the concerned areas. Since 2013, Cameroon has to deal with unprecedented flux of refugees originating from neighboring countries, principally from Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic.

At the internal level, populations are often forced into internal displacement, mainly in the Northern belt part of the country in the case of Cameroon. In addition, questions relating to the nationality of several residents of the Bakassi Peninsula after its retrocession to Cameroon following the conflict opposing it to Nigeria, have not been completely resolved. The registration of births in rural as well as urban areas remains a major issue in countries of the central African sub-region, thereby weakening the right to nationality of many citizens.

The Conference of 30th September-1st October will seek the following objectives:
- Identify and analyze the legal framework of the right to nationality in Central Africa
- Examine the risks and obstacles to the realization of the right to nationality in countries of Central Africa
- Discuss questions relating to the right to nationality within the framework of current security challenges in Central Africa and Nigeria
- Identify the groups whose right of access to nationality is most vulnerable in Central African countries a particular attention will be paid to issues relating to civil registry, children’s rights, women’s rights, minorities and indigenous peoples’ rights, as well as migrations and victims of conflicts (internally displaced and refugees notably).

The Conference will seek to attain the following outcomes:
- Recall the two international convention of 1954 and 1961 relating to statelessness
- Introduce the Protocol on the right to nationality in Africa adopted in Addis Ababa in August 2015, as well as the Study on « the Right to Nationality in Africa »
- Showcase the work of the Coalition on the Right to Nationality in Africa to stakeholders from the Central African sub-region
- Set up a multi-stakeholder database of organizations, individuals and institutions from Central Africa whose work may have an impact on the right to nationality and the prevention of statelessness and conflicts.

Speakers (Invited and confirmed)
Participants in the Conference are civil society organizations from Cameroon, Central Africa and West Africa that work on issues relating to access to nationality, women’s rights, children’s rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, as well as the prevention of conflicts and the rights of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons. The following organizations are invited to the conference as speakers:
- ONG Samba Mwana (Gabon)
- ONG Avocats Verts (Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC)
- Centre pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Enfant (Central African Republic - CAR)
- Association des Femmes Peuhles du Tchad (Chad)
- TBC (Republic of Congo)
- Association Sijil Jigeen (Senegal)
- National Human Rights Commission (Nigeria)
- UNHCR – West Africa Office (INVITED)
- UNHCR – Cameroon Office (INVITED)
- Plan International – Africa Bureau - Ethiopia (INVITED)
- Citizens Governance Initiatives (Cameroon)
- International Refugee Rights Initiatives-IRRI (US office)

Members of the Coalition for the Right to Nationality in Africa
- Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l’Homme – AMDH (Mauritania)
- Club Union Africain Côte d’Ivoire – ClubUACI (Côte d’Ivoire)
- Conscience International (Sierra Leone)
- Forum des Organisations Nationales des Droits de l’Homme –FONADH (Mauritania)
- Institute for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa- IHRDA (Gambia)
- International Refugee Rights Initiative- IRRI (Uganda)
- Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa)
- Legal Assistance Centre(Namibia)
- Nubian Rights Forum (Kenya)
- PLACE (Sudan)
- Rencontre Africaine des Droits de l’Homme – RADDHO (Senegal)
- School of Human Rights and Governance (Kenya )
- West African Refugees and internally Displaced Persons Network –WARIPNET (Senegal)
- Citizens Governance Initiative (CGI)
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