Source: Democracy in Africa blog
Bronwen Manby takes us through her new book Citizenship in Africa: The Law of Belonging. In an important contribution to the literature on statehood, citizenship and identity in Africa, this piece highlights the importance of formal legal frameworks and contests over citizenship in determining who belongs.
Who belongs? And how do you decide? These are questions that are central to any community. In the context of the modern state, the rules are established by citizenship laws that set out the conditions for recognition as legally belonging to that state – with rights and responsibilities to match.
The content of citizenship laws can be politically controversial in any country. African states, whose borders were, for the most part, arbitrarily created at the stroke of a pen in Berlin in 1885, have particular challenges. The 1964 decision of the newly formed Organisation of African Unity to respect those borders committed the continent to the task of moulding the colonial units into legitimate political communities. A very large literature deals with the challenges to this task posed by questions of identity and belonging, and the “crisis of nationality and sovereignty” that result.