Citizenship in Rwanda is governed by the Organic Law No 30/2008 of 25/07/2008 relating to Rwandan nationality and by the 2003 Constitution as revised in 2015. The law provides for gender equality in transmission by descent, and for a child born in Rwanda to be able to apply for citizenship upon majority. It establishes presumption in favour of children of unknown parents, and is among the few African laws to provide explicitly for rights based on birth in Rwanda for otherwise stateless children. The law also allows for dual citizenship and protects persons who are Rwandan nationals by origin from being deprived of their nationality. The law also establishes rules for acquisition of nationality by persons of “Rwandan origin”, interpreted in practice to mean those who can show that a direct ascendant was born or resident in Rwanda.

An additional issue in Rwanda has been the situation of Kinyarwanda speakers living outside Rwanda who are perceived as “Rwandan” as a result of their language and ancestry, often to the detriment of their rights. The perception of these people might lead one to believe that they could easily naturalize in Rwanda, a view supported by the relatively generous provisions on naturalization in Rwanda. However, refugees in Rwanda have reported that they felt that in practice this option was not open to them and that they felt excluded in Rwanda (for more information see, Shadows of Return: The Dilemmas of Congolese Refugees in Rwanda).

Key Resources