Post-colonial citizenship and decolonisation as a turning point : continuities and discontinuities in African states

Published: 21/Jan/2023
Source: Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute

RSCAS Working Paper 2023/01

By Bronwen Manby

This paper considers decolonisation as a turning point, or moment of change, in the history of the legal regulation of belonging and membership, with a particular focus on Africa. The paper compares the evolution of concepts of citizenship when African states gained independence with other decolonisations—of the Americas, South Asia, and former Soviet Union. It explores the many similarities between Africa and other post-colonial geographies, especially the frequent resilience of colonial institutions and the resentment of those whose presence in a territory is the result of population movements within the former empires. Yet it also shows how the particular experience of European imperial oppression in Africa created continental dynamics in the imagination and regulation of citizenship that are different from other regions. Finally, however, the paper warns against overemphasizing the differences from the debates over citizenship in Europe. Europe, after all, is also a post-colonial space: European borders established at the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires were equally viewed as artificial; while the legacy of European imperialism lives on in contemporary European immigration and citizenship policies. Although the challenges of imagining the community in Africa’s post-independence states are obvious, the boundaries of community are as mutable as they are in other continents, and concepts of citizenship thus not so dissimilar to those in Europe or elsewhere.


Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Discrimination, Loss and Deprivation of Nationality, State Succession
Regions: Pan Africa
Year: 2023