Central Africa

The Central Africa region recognised by the African Union is formed of nine countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

These nine countries also form the core of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), joined by Angola and Rwanda. ECCAS has adopted a protocol on freedom of movement, but its implementation is not as far advanced that of ECOWAS and the East African Community.

More relevant for questions related to respect for the right to a nationality in the region may be the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which also includes Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia (but not Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, or São Tomé and Príncipe) as signatories to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, its founding document.

The ICGLR was formed in response to the multiple crises and refugee flows generated by the war in the DRC – a war that was at least in part generated by conflicts over nationality, over the right of persons who speak Kinyarwanda to be Congolese. Among those affected, some are descendants from people who have always been resident in what is now the DRC, some from people brought as forced labourers by the Belgians, some from refugees who fled Rwanda in 1959, and others are more recent migrants. Its nationality law has been repeatedly amended since 1960 to create different levels of inclusion for Kinyarwanda speakers, and still discriminates on the basis of ethnicity. As a consequence, the DRC has one of the largest populations of people at risk of statelessness – although, thanks to weaknesses of state administration in general, it is impossible to say how many.

The countries of the Central Africa region share a civil law heritage in terms of their nationality laws (though with variations bequeathed by the different traditions of France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain).