Delegates at the ongoing national dialogue conference have proposed a policy that would prevent holders of dual citizenship from occupying any constitutional post in South Sudan.
Dual citizenship — or dual nationality — means being a citizen of two countries simultaneously and sharing the rights and responsibilities of the citizens in each country.
The proposal to deny these rights to dual citizens came up during discussions on ethnic diversity.
One of the groups tasked with the topic proposed that those who hold dual citizenship should not be appointed ministers, or into crucial positions in the country.
“People who hold dual citizenship should not be recruited and appointed to constitutional positions. Not only constitutional positions but also diplomatic missions and organized forces,” Philip Aguer, former governor of Jonglei State, read out the group’s recommendation.
However, the deputy rapporteur of the national dialogue initiative, Dr. Francis Mading Deng seems not to agree with the proposal.
He said the idea -if adopted – will exclude thousands of South Sudanese who have been residents and citizens in foreign countries since the Sudanese civil war.
Dr. Mading mentioned the former child soldiers who were repatriated to the United States as among those who will be greatly affected by such a drastic move.
“These young people who became as the lost boys and eventually I said not just lost boys but lost and found boys and girls. Some of them got dual nationality…and [they] are our ambassadors in the world,” he said.
According to the American Community Survey, there are nearly 100,000 people of Sudanese and South Sudanese origin living in the United States.
In 2016, the former US President George W. Bush acknowledged the role played by South Sudanese living abroad in the independence of South Sudan, and the promotion of peace and reconciliation in their homeland.
He mentioned that South Sudan is still a fragile nation, and those living abroad should “take what you have learned and help South Sudan.”
Dr. Francis Mading said this is precicely what most South Sudanese abroad have done.
“Many of them because of their loyalty to the country are here now instead of being abroad, they are here serving the country under difficult circumstances,” Dr. Mading stressed.
Dr. Mading -himself- previously served as the UN’s first Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, and as the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide.
He returned to serve as the independent country’s first ambassador to the United Nations from 2012 to July 2016.
Citizenship rights are regulated by South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution, the Nationality Act and the Nationality Regulations, all adopted in 2011.
South Sudan explicitly allows dual nationality as the law provides for the acquisition of citizenship by birth or through naturalization.
Every person born to a South Sudanese mother or father shall have an inalienable right to enjoy South Sudanese citizenship and nationality.
“No naturalized citizen shall be deprived of his or her acquired citizenship except in accordance with the law,” the constitution reads.
It also states “a non-South Sudanese may acquire the nationality of South Sudan by naturalization as shall be prescribed by law,” adding that “every citizen shall enjoy all the rights guaranteed by this Constitution.”
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