The International Observatory on Statelessness


Statelessness issues appear in all regions of Africa, often affecting ethnic or religious minorities considered to be “non-indigenous” to the country at hand or groups with historical or cultural ties elsewhere. Statelessness also arises in countries that do not permit female citizens to pass nationality to their children. Significant populations of concern include the 3.5 million inhabitants of Cote d’Ivoire who lack identity documents; the 110,000-155,000 Sahrawis taking refuge in Algeria, who have been stateless for 32 years; and hundreds of thousands of children in Egypt with non-Egyptian fathers. The citizenship status of 300,000 to 400,000 Banyamulenge in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains contentious.

However, important positive developments have taken place in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Mauritania. Nubians in Kenya report facing far fewer obstacles in registering for national identification cards; Ethiopia recently enacted a proclamation enabling persons of Eritrean origin to reestablish Ethiopian citizenship that they had lost during the 1998-2000 border conflict with Eritrea; and in 2007, Mauritania began repatriating persons who fled to Senegal following ethnic violence in the late 1980s. Encouragingly, Egypt’s Interior Ministry began in 2003 to process citizenship applications of persons of mixed parentage, but progress has been very slow relative to the numbers affected. Since 2005, Senegal and Rwanda have ratified both statelessness conventions.