Citizenship in Sudan is governed by the Constitutional Declaration adopted in 2019 (which repeated the provisions of the Interim Constitution of 2005 in relation to citizenship) and the Sudanese Nationality Act of 1994, as amended most recently in 2018.
The Constitution provides that “Every person born to a Sudanese mother or father shall have an inalienable right to enjoy Sudanese nationality and citizenship”. The law, however, discriminates against women in terms of access to citizenship for children. Although amendments to the law in 2005 gave the in-principle right for a mother to transmit nationality to her child, it provides automatic citizenship for children of Sudanese men, but requires children of Sudanese mothers to go through an application process. Since it was adopted in 1994, the law has allowed for dual nationality.
In 2011, the law was amended again, following the secession of South Sudan, to provide that any person who has acquired South Sudanese nationality, either in fact or in law, will automatically lose their Sudanese nationality. A large number of people with connections to South Sudan, including children with one parent whose Sudanese nationality is not contested and people descended from many generations resident in the north, have been left stateless or at risk of statelessness by this amendment. The government of Sudan has argued that those eligible to vote in the referendum on South Sudanese had thereby acquired South Sudanese nationality. A case before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in 2018 found that the provisions of the Nationality Act violated the child’s right to a nationality. In 2018, the Nationality Act was amended again to exempt a person from automatic revocation “if it is proved that his ancestors domiciled in Sudan in or before the first of January 1924”.
The 2019 Constitutional Declaration provided for state agencies during the ‘Transitional Period’ to ‘Repeal laws and provisions that restrict freedoms or that discriminate between citizens on the basis of gender.’ However, the gender discrimination in the nationality law has not yet been addressed.
In 2012, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan negotiated a Framework Agreement (the “Four Freedoms Agreement”) offering reciprocal rights to the citizens of one in the other. To enjoy rights under the agreement, a person first has to be documented with the nationality of the other country, whereas many people potentially affected in fact may consider themselves nationals of the state where they live.
A further issue has been the extent to which certain populations in Sudan are marginalised and excluded. These populations complain that they are living as second class citizens –or worse as non-citizens. Contested groups include those from Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and eastern Sudan (for more details, see The Disappearance of Sudan? Life in Khartoum for Citizens without Rights).