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Nationality and Citizenship in the “New Sudan”

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A Legal or Moral Issue?

image of Middle East Law and Governance

When South Sudan separated from Sudan in 2011, the two countries faced difficult issues related to the division of assets, security of the borders, sharing of oil resources, and the transition from a history of acrimony to coexistence and harmony. But one of the most daunting matters presented by separation was the question of nationality and citizenship. This paper explores the concept of citizenship, what the constitutions of the two countries stipulate about how it is acquired or lost, and whether the constitutional stipulation dovetails with how citizenship is granted or denied by the two states. The paper shows that belonging to a physical entity by birth, which many respondents thought would suffice as the foundation for legal citizenship, has left many people in the two Sudans and across Africa exposed to arbitrary citizenship decisions by both governments that are based on how state authorities perceive that decision to serve a particular agenda. The paper concludes that, despite the wrangling over citizenship and nationality between the governments of the two countries, the social and family connections that have been forged over many generations between North and South Sudanese, especially those living in the 12 border states, will be more important in determining population movement across borders than any rigid policies the governments might put in place.

Affiliations: 1: Loyola Marymount University, LA, California,


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