East Africa

The African Union recognises 14 states in the East Africa region, of which five – Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and (from 2016) South Sudan, joined by Burundi (from the Central Africa region) – are also members of the East African Community (EAC), one of the regional economic communities also recognised by the AU. The EAC, re-launched in 2000, aims to create a similar zone of free movement as that which ECOWAS has established in West Africa; in 2016 Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda started issuing a common form biometric passport.

The East African region has some of the most severe challenges relating to statelessness in Africa. These include the consequences of the collapse of government in Somalia which has led to a large outflow of refugees, many of whom have been unable to integrate as nationals in neighbouring states despite long residence. The processes creating Eritrea and South Sudan, which have split from Ethiopia and Sudan, have also left large populations at risk of statelessness. Somaliland and Puntland also claim independence from Somalia, and have been issuing ID cards, but have not been recognised by the African Union.

The legal traditions of the region vary very widely, but, like other regions of Africa, East African countries increasingly permit dual nationality and respect equal rights of men and women; though discrimination on the basis of sex remains in place in several countries. A handful of laws, including in Uganda and Somalia, explicitly restrict access to citizenship on the basis of ethnicity; in others such discrimination is widespread in practice.

Key Resources