An exploration of statelessness in Namibia: The significance of legal citizenship

Published: 1/Sep/2018
Source: University of Namibia

By Johannes Ndeshimona Shekeni


This exploratory study looks at statelessness in Namibia, focusing on citizenship as a legal status. The study uses the theory of politics of citizenship to assess how the issue of statelessness fits into citizenship discourse in Namibian. It defines the problems presented by statelessness and highlights the urgency of addressing it. The study draws upon qualitative data like documentary analyses, books, journals and semi-structured interviews. Despite provisions on protection against statelessness, this study found that Namibian citizenship contains some grey areas. The findings of the study point to many cases of lack of legal documentation and indicate no significant number of statelessness cases. Evidentiary bureaucratic practices and primacy of ju sanguinis (descent) over ju soli (birth on the territory) in Namibian citizenship law act as obstacles for people in obtaining legal documentation. The findings suggest that the Angolan diaspora is primarily the population at high risk of statelessness or lack of documentation. However, a proposed legislation is being discussed to grant citizenship to the said population. The findings also suggest that Namibian politics of citizenship is dominated by policy-makers and that in their debates, statelessness avoidance has not been central. The findings of this investigation show that most people that lack legal documentation are excluded from many formal processes. Conversely, Namibian electoral law makes conditional provision for undocumented persons to vote but the same law prevents them from being appointed as elected office-bearers. The study recommends that further research be done to establish cases of statelessness within the undocumented population, focusing on lived experiences of undocumented persons. The study provides an important opportunity to advance our understanding of statelessness in Namibia.


A mini thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Political Studies

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Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Birth Registration, Statelessness
Regions: Namibia
Year: 2018