Remembering four people in the history of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Right to a nationality

Published: 21/Feb/2024
Source: LinkedIn

By Chidi Odinkalu

Last Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Assembly of Heads of State & Govt of the African Union saw off the last sovereign objections from Libya & voted to adopt a new treaty Relating to the Specific Aspects to the Right to a #Nationality and the Eradication of #StatelessnessInAfrica.

Today, I want to remember 4 people who taught me a lot; who have completed their earthly tours of duty & without whom this landmark would not have bn possible.

Born around 1936 of a mother from the Cape & a Dad from among Botswana’s Bangwaketse, #JohnModise was stripped of his Botswana nationality & rendered stateless because of his inconvenient politics. I represented John in the case that established nationality as an implicit right in the #AfricanCharter on Human & Peoples’ Rights.

#TajudeenAbdulraheem was the 1st #RhodesScholar from Northern Nigeria & Secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement when he was killed tragically in an accident in Nairobi on 25 May 2009.

I got to visit John in the ruins of what used to be his home in Lobatse, #Botswana & he taught me in an intimate way what can happen when #Statelessness visits anyone, insisting that we all do something to ensure no one has to suffer anywhere in #Africa the ruin he endured.

Tajudeen was an expert in building unusual partnerships & made me believe that the political coalition existed to do something about #StatelessnessInAfrica.

In 2007, with the initial support of #Uganda, we launched the case for a continental treaty to protect the right to a Nationality & prohibit statelessness in Africa. John was already dead.

Uganda’s role was made possible by Gen. #NobleMayombo, a professional guerilla, Yoweri Museveni‘s former Chief of Military Intelligence & 1 of the most talented strategists I worked with. 2 months after we launched the campaign, Gen. Mayombo was killed, poisoned in a power struggle.

Dismas Nkunda of the Int’l Refugee Rights Initiative, #IRRI was on the team. With Tajudeen & Dismas, we formulated the case but needed help to make it.

I did the initial draft of the treaty text. Bronwen Manby, the world’s greatest Anorak on comparative nationality laws in #Africa took it from there, polishing off the negotiating text. Ibrahima Kane was our advocate in the halls of the #AU through the 8 sessions of the treaty negotiations. He locked in Senegal.

To make the case, we needed Trevor Ncube, publisher of Mail & Guardian, himself a victim of de-nationalization in his native Zimbabwe. He was willing. As was Jenerali Ulimwengu of Habari Media in Tanzania who also had a telling personal encounter with statelessness.

From Kampala, Dismas & I headed to Zambia. At his home in Lusaka, we briefed #KennethKaunda, Zambia’s founding president. He helped us lock in Zambia.

This treaty owes everything to KK, Mayombo, Tajudeen & John Modise. Here’s how it began.

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Themes: African standards, Statelessness
Regions: Pan Africa
Year: 2024