Benin: Government Proposes Bill to Recognize Afro-Descendants as Nationals

Published: 11/Juin/2024
Source: Law Library of Congress (Washington DC)

On May 8, 2024, the Council of Ministers of Benin submitted to parliament a draft law recognizing Beninese nationality for “Afro-descendants”—persons with sub-Saharan African ancestry deported during the slave trade.

The Beninese government expressed that many Afro-descendants wish to reconnect with their ancestral kingdoms or the republics that replaced them. However, due to fragmented memorial archives, it is difficult to identify the victims of the slave trade, their destinations, and their subsequent fate. The proposed law would allow descendants of these slave-trade victims to present evidence demonstrating their ancestry.

The draft law defines an Afro-descendant as any person with a sub-Saharan African ancestor deported from Africa during the slave trade. Proof of Afro-descent can be provided through civil or official documentation, witness testimony attested by an authentic act, a DNA test by an approved Beninese facility, or other technical or scientific means. If the National Assembly passes the law, individuals meeting these criteria would be able to acquire Beninese nationality.

This acquisition by “recognition” would confer to Afro-descendants all rights and obligations except political rights and access to the Beninese civil service. This limitation is set out in article 36 of the 2022 Beninese Nationality Code. However, Wilfried Houngbédji, the spokesman for the Beninese government, clarified that nationality by recognition can lead to full nationality through naturalization in accordance with article 34 of the Nationality Code. This allows an expatriate who has spent at least five years in Benin to become a Beninese citizen and hold public office.

This measure, along with the abolition of entry visas for African nationals since 2017, is intended to strengthen Benin’s pan-Africanist policy. The government mentioned that the decision is in line with United Nations General Assembly resolution 68/237, which proclaimed the period from 2015 to 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, citing the need to strengthen national, regional, and international cooperation measures and activities to guarantee the full exercise of the economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights of people of African descent.

Louis Gilbert, Law Library of Congress
June 11, 2024

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Themes: Discrimination, Naturalisation et le mariage, Ethnique/Raciale/Religieuse
Regions: Bénin
Year: 2024