The issue of statelessness remains high on IRRI’s agenda. From 2008 when we partnered with the Social Science Research Council, to undertake research on the lived experiences of unequal access to belonging and citizenship, and its relationship to displacement and integration, IRRI has been at the forefront of advocating for a right to a nationality. In addition to participating in various coalitions to advance this right, IRRI hosts and manages the Citizenship Rights in Africa Initiative (CRAI) website and information portal that has a rich database of nationality information and laws from across Africa, providing a critical resource for those working to ensure respect for the right to a nationality and an end to statelessness on the African continent. The website contains a database of more than 9,000 documents on nationality laws and statelessness information in Africa featuring national laws and subsidiary legislation, government and independent reports, academic articles, news stories, blog postings, and several other resources. The website is maintained by Bronwen Manby and Djibril Balde.
IRRI further convenes social scientists, civil society actors, lawyers and stateless, at risk or displaced communities to deliberate on trends and threats, and plan joint actions towards eliminating statelessness on the Continent. IRRI participates in advocacy platforms to push for policies and practices that protect those who find themselves without, or are at risk of losing their nationality. During this period, IRRI joined other likeminded African civil society organisations in advocacy efforts to set clear standards at the Continental and regional levels, on the recognition of nationality and the eradication of statelessness in Africa. For example, in January 2018, IRRI and WARIPNET organised a panel on the Right to a Nationality in Africa in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This panel was an opportunity to mobilise Ivorian civil society organisations to exchange on issues of statelessness in Africa. In April 2018, in the leadup to the May African Union (AU) meeting on the draft protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Specific Aspects of the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness, IRRI and RADDHO organised a panel on Right to Nationality in Africa and Statelessness at the 62nd session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Nouakchott, Mauritania, with the participation of Commissioner Maya Sahli-Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa. The panel discussed the evolution of the draft protocol on nationality and statelessness in Africa. In June 2018, IRRI hosted a workshop that brought together key stakeholders from government and national and international NGOs, aimed at introducing the draft protocol, and exploring ways civil society and government can support its adoption and share knowledge. The civil society organisations involved in the meeting decided to create a working group. In October 2018, a panel on the Right to Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa, was organised during the NGO Forum of the 63rd Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in Banjul, by IRRI, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), CICA, Equality Now, FEMNET, WARIPNET and IHRDA.
In addition to advocacy meetings with the Uganda Government Focal Point on Statelessness, prior to the Specialised Technical Committee (STC) in Malabo in October/November 2018, IRRI, in collaboration with (KHRC) and Dignity Kwanza, facilitated a series of meetings including a side meeting with representatives from the ministries of foreign and internal affairs on the margins of the Ministerial Conference on the Eradication of Statelessness in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). IRRI also addressed leaders from intergovernmental organisations UNHCR, AU and ICGLR at the Ministerial Conference on the Eradication of Statelessness in April 2019. Director Achieng Akena gave
a statement on behalf of civil society in the Great Lakes Region in which she highlighted the importance of continued efforts to eliminate statelessness. In the statement, she applauded steps already taken by governments, encouraged further measures and pledged the support of civil society in helping to combat the problem.
The focus on statelessness continued into 2019 where a case study on the Maragoli, a minority community in Uganda, shed light on how communities end up being barred from accessing important human rights because they are failed by inadequate policies. The story was part of a the project Empowering Stateless Communities in East Africa, led by IRRI within a coalition of East African civil society organisations supported by Voice.Global. It gives a timeline of the Maragoli community’s struggles since they were excluded from the list of Ugandan communities in the Constitution, and effectively rendered stateless. In 2019, IRRI, RADDHO, and CICA conducted research on populations at risk of statelessness in Guinea Conakry and Burkina Faso. This research is in line with the Banjul Plan of Action, particularly its objective 2.1 on research, analysis and dissemination of data on statelessness. Based on this lack of reliable and informed data on statelessness, these organisations in partnership with OSIWA and AfRO, initiated this research to understand the phenomenon of statelessness, identify the populations at risk of statelessness in Guinea and Burkina Faso, the main difficulties and obstacles they face, and the strategies that need to be implemented to address these difficulties and accelerate the eradication of statelessness.
In fulfilling our commitments during the ICGLR Ministerial meeting, IRRI established new and stronger links with stakeholders in Uganda, broadening the constituency of actors who are aware of statelessness issues, e.g. Voice grantees at the Linking and Learning Workshop in July 2019 in Mukono who subsequently established a joint platform for solidarity and sharing of information. In the two years, IRRI also worked closely with Minority Rights Group, Uganda who also focus on statelessness and who are founding members of the Indigenous Minorities Coalition of Uganda. In October 2019, IRRI participated in a meeting of the Africa-wide Coalition on the Right to a Nationality, where it was agreed to establish sub-regional platforms, on diversifying the coalition’s funding and broadening the scope of themes and actors in the statelessness/nationality rights campaigns e.g. including risks in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. In October 2019, IRRI, as a member of the Right to Nationality Coalition, participated to the side event on the Right to Nationality in Africa at the session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples in Banjul. It was an opportunity to present the activities that have been carried out by the Coalition on the Right to Nationality in Africa which is a coalition of African NGOs which works, individually and collectively, to promote the right of all peoples of the continent to a nationality. Over the past few years, the coalition has carried out many advocacy and awareness activities in the different sub-regions of the African continent.
Citizenship and Forced Migration in the Great Lakes Region (working paper series)
Since 2008, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, in partnership with the Social Science Research Council, have carried out a research and advocacy project to generate better understandings of the lived experience of unequal access to belonging and citizenship, and its relationship to displacement in the Great Lakes region. The project brings together social scientists, NGO advocates, lawyers and displaced communities to conduct a series of case studies and to suggest policy changes which will contribute to finding solutions to conflict. The focus of the work is on those aspects of policy over which there is greatest contestation: questions of multiple citizenships, local identities, border communities, and the impact of emerging regional forms of citizenship.
Working Paper #1, November 2008
Going Home or Staying Home? Ending Displacement for Burundian Refugees in Tanzania
Research was conducted in partnership with the Center for the Study of Forced Migration and the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Working Paper #2, November 2009
Two People Can’t Wear the Same Pair of Shoes: Citizenship, Land and the Return of Refugees to Burundi
Research conducted in partnership with Rema Ministries, Burundi
Working Paper #3, March 2010
Who Belongs Where? Conflict, Displacement, Land and Identity in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo
Working Paper #4, June 2010
A Dangerous Impasse: Rwandan Refugees in Uganda
This paper was carried out in partnership with the Refugee Law Project, Faculty of Law, Makerere University, Uganda
Working Paper #5, November 2010
Hoping for Peace, Afraid of War: the Dilemmas of Repatriation and Belonging on the Borders of Uganda and South Sudan
This paper was published as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) Research Paper No, 196 at www.unhcr.org/4cf5018b1.pdf
Working Paper #6, July 2011
Shadows of Return: The Dilemma of Congolese Refugees in Rwanda
Working Paper #7, May 2012
Darfurians in South Sudan: Negotiating Belonging in Two Sudans
Research conducted in partnership with the Darfurian community in Kampala