Citizenship the most important right of all

Published: 12/Oct/2009
Source: African Arguments

By Bronwen Manby

“Give us our identity cards and we hand over our Kalashnikovs”, said the leader of the rebel forces in Cí´te d’Ivoire. Those who have never been deprived of official papers may find it hard to imagine the powerlessness that results: powerlessness that can and does lead people to take up arms. Even in the poorest countries, a passport or identity card does not just provide the right to travel, but forms the basis of the right to almost everything else.

Millions of people living in Africa find themselves without these papers: non-persons in the only country they have ever known. Because they are not recognised as citizens, they cannot get their children registered at birth or entered in public schools or universities; they cannot access state health services; they cannot obtain travel documents, or employment without a work permit; and if they leave the country they may not be able to return. Most of all, they cannot vote, stand for office, or work for state institutions.

Read on AfricanArguments website: Citizenship the most important right of all

Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Identity Documents, Statelessness
Regions: Pan Africa
Year: 2009