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The Implications of the Sudan and South Sudan Nationality Laws

By Nicodemus M. Minde
The Ministry of Labor, Public Service and Human Resource Development of South Sudan has followed on its decision of May 2012 circular to evict Sudanese workers [northerners]. This raises the question about the impact of South Sudan’s independence on the right to a nationality by both states. In January 2011, after years of civil strife, the people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for separation from the Republic of Sudan. South Sudan obtained its independence six months later, on 9 July 2011.[1] As part of the process of separation of the two states, people of South Sudanese origin who are habitually resident in what remains the Republic of Sudan are being stripped of their Sudanese nationality and livelihoods. The South Sudan Nationality Act entered into force a month after independence. An amendment to this Act has resulted in a person with one South Sudanese parent and one who remains Sudanese will lose his or her Sudanese nationality. This law has also infringed on the 2005 Interim National Constitution of Sudan (As embodied in the CPA) which provided an inalienable right to anybody born to a Sudanese heritage to enjoy dual nationality. These laws have disregarded the tenets of international law. International law provides that, when part of a state secedes to create a new state or to merge with another state, the nationality of the people resident in the territories affected is attributed to one or other of the two states on the basis of habitual residence. The succession of states also permits individuals to opt for the nationality of either state if they have an appropriate connection to both. The two states have introduced a nationality law based on the ethnic identity contrary to the provisions and dictates of international law.

The move by the South’s Ministry of Labor to render the Sudanese workers (northerners) persona no grata further highlights the need for a redraft of the Nationality Act in both states. The enmity and antipathy between the two states on nationality laws is just a recipe for further tensions. Border tensions have already created conflict fault lines between the two states. This recent developments will further dampen the efforts to build a sustainable positive peace. The South wants their people to get the jobs that the Northerners have. A South Sudanese official was quoted saying that “It is the right of [South Sudanese] nationals to get those [job] positions. There should be no anyway a Sudanese would occupy jobs for South Sudanese.” The South’s position is for the workers to legalize their status as refugees or expatriates.

South Sudan should understand that despite its sovereign status, it owes therewith, its heritage to the larger Sudan. The Republic of Sudan should also be privy to these facts as well. Peace-building between two warring states requires sensible national laws that promote peaceful coexistence. The nationality laws in the two countries should therefore be redrafted and renegotiated.      


[1] See Manby, B. (2012). The Right to a Nationality and the Secession of South Sudan: A Commentary on the Impact of the New Laws. The Open Society for Eastern Africa (OSIEA).


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