Source: Democracy in Africa
By Jesper Bjarnesen, Cristiano Lanzano, Henning Melber, and Patience Mususa
Citizenship is and has always been a complicated and multi-faceted concept. Across African contexts, as a recent IDAP webinar reiterated, this complexity is both conceptual and reflective of the many and changing politics around the notion. Citizenship relates simultaneously, and sometimes in contradictory ways, to both sides of the hyphen in the equally complicated notion of the nation-state; to the idea of a nation, often vested in identity politics and issues of collective belonging as well as to the idea of the state as a bureaucratic order with its accompanying rights and obligations.
With reference to African states, the human rights scholar Bronwen Manby maintains , that “citizenship is not just a legal concept but also a profoundly political question of self-definition”. In a policy paper on The politics of citizenship: social contract and inclusivity in Africa, we have argued that a more committed investment in citizenship rights might contribute to social stability and improved state-citizen relations in Africa. We have expanded our arguments further to explain why and how “citizenship matters” in our view as a field of policy intervention in relation to social inclusion and political stabilisation. We herewith present a short summary of some of the main observations and arguments.