Legality On Dual Nationality In Rwanda

Published: 18/Feb/2021
Source: Taarifa Rwanda (Kigali)

Paul Rusesabagina’s submissions before the court on Wednesday, February 17, invoked a legal technicality that he did not take time to inform himself about. He claimed that he denounced his Rwandan nationality and thus cannot be tried by a Rwandan court because he is now a Belgian national.

Rwanda’s Ambassador to Netherlands, also a lawyer, has shade light on this matter in five legal arguments.

1. Conflict of Nationality Laws

According to the “Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws”, adopted in The Hague on 12 April 1930, it is for each State to determine under its own law who are its nationals; and this law shall be recognized by other States (article 1). In other words, conditions for the acquisition, retention, enjoyment, renunciation or deprivation of nationality are determined by the national law only.

2. All nationalities are equal

In that regard, a person having two or more nationalities may be regarded, by each of the States whose nationality he possesses, as its national (article 3); and a State may not afford diplomatic protection to one of its nationals against a State whose nationality such person also possesses (article 4). This means that all nationalities are equal and a Rwandan citizen who has dual or multiple citizenships will be considered as a Rwandan only when dealing with Rwandan authorities.

3. Losing the Rwandan nationality

In our country, dual nationality is permitted and no one can be deprived of the Rwandan nationality of origin (Article 25 of the Constitution). The only way of losing the Rwandan nationality by birth is to renounce it in writing to the Director-General of Immigration and Emigration (article 18 of the Organic Law n° 30/2008 of 05/07/2008 relating to Rwandan Nationality), including through Rwandan embassies and consulates (article 31 of Presidential Order n° 21/01 of 27/05/2009 establishing the Procedure for the Application and Acquisition of Rwandan Nationality).

4. Application for a refugee status

However, application for renunciation of the Rwandan nationality can only be received if (1) the applicant possesses another nationality (to avoid statelessness) or (2) wishes to acquire one (to avoid conflict of citizenships in some countries). Therefore, and contrary to certain beliefs, application for refugee status or for a nationality of a country not allowing dual citizenship does not constitute a tacit renunciation of the Rwandan nationality. This would have subjected the Rwandan nationality to a foreign law, which is against the principle of the territoriality of the law.

5. Losing or handing over Identification documents

Finally, it is important to note that a Rwandan identity card, passport, or citizenship certificate is not a constituent element of the nationality. It is merely a documentary proof of that nationality (article 28 of the Nationality Law). Therefore, losing such a document or handing it over to the authorities, national or foreign, does not deprive the holder of his or her citizenship.

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Themes: Dual Nationality, Nationality of Politicians
Regions: Rwanda
Year: 2021