Democratic Republic of Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), challenges over the ability for individuals and groups to meaningfully assert the bond of citizenship as the basis of rights to belong and access resources has been a root cause of violence over the past decades. In particular, the nationality status of the Banyarwanda population of eastern Congo has been at the root of conflicts in North and South Kivu (See, for example, International Refugee Rights Initiative, Who Belongs Where?).

In 2004, a new law on nationality was adopted by the country’s transitional government, intended to permanently clarify who is and is not a citizen of DRC. (Loi No. 04/024 Relative à la Nationalité Congolaise). However, although the law offers the possibility of asserting citizenship to most of the contested populations, it remains a compromise between promoting an inclusive framework for citizenship based on birth and the proactive creation of de facto ties of belonging, and continues to rely on ethnicity as a basis on which nationality is claimed. This reliance on ethnicity is further underscored by the Article 10 of the country’s 2006 Constitution, which still refers to ethnicity as the core expression of national identity.

The 2004 law allows for non-ethnic transmission of citizenship rights allowing any child of a Congolese national citizenship (thus allowing naturalised citizens to pass on that status) and providing that those born on the territory may naturalise at 18, if they are still resident in DRC. However, it also provides as the primary basis for citizenship that: a person is Congolese by birth (congolais d’origine), if he or she belongs to one of the “ethnic groups and nationalities of which the population and the territory constituted a part of what became Congo at independence” (Article 6).