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Sudan: Citizenship Changed for Residents from the South

(July 20, 2011) On July 13, 2011, the Parliament of Sudan passed a law that ends Sudanese citizenship for residents of the newly independent state of South Sudan. Although the legislation had yet to have its third reading, Member of Parliament Ismail al-Haj Musa stated that all “southerners are going to lose their Sudanese nationality directly.” Those who registered to vote in the January 2011 referendum that determined that South Sudan would become its own nation are considered by the government in the north to be southerners. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than a million southerners remain in the north of Sudan, despite a large-scale migration to the south that has occurred since October 2011. (Simon Martelli, Khartoum Cancel Sudanese Nationality of Southerners, AFP (July 13, 2011).)

Although overall 99% of those voting in the referendum favored independence for the south, among those living in the north who participated, only 58% voted for the creation of the new state. Many southerners living in the north were concerned for the future of their employment and citizenship, as the Government of Sudan in Khartoum has already stated that dual citizenship will not be permitted. (Sudan Rejects Dual Citizenship for South Sudanese, VOICE OF AMERICA (July 18, 2011).)

In addition, all southerners working for the public sector in the north have lost their jobs. According to Sudanese presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie, there will be a nine-month transitional period for southerners who wish to work in the private sector in the north, to give them time to “settle their situations” and obtain permission and residency permits. (Martelli, supra.)

The issue of citizenship is just one problem awaiting resolution between Sudan and the new country of South Sudan. Disputes continue over oil revenue-sharing, the border between the two nations, and control of the Abyei region. (VOICE OF AMERICA, supra.)