"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

1.11.2010

what is a kenyan?

Over at African Arguments, L. Muthoni Wanyeki has a fantastic post on conceptions of citizenship and identity as they relate to Kenyan constitutional reform.
...Our current Constitution does not recognise the multitude of ways in which belonging to, identification with a state (or several states simultaneously) can and does happen. Our current Constitution does not recognise the multitude of ways in which belonging to, identifying with Kenya can and is denied—on a casually indifferent and routine manner.

Citizenship can be claimed in three primary ways. By birth. By descent. By naturalisation (following, for example, marriage, migration, long term residency for purposes of choice, employment and investment). Our current Constitution, in effect, recognises only citizenship by descent from a Kenyan male—and, in limited circumstances, by naturalisation. It is not enough to be born here. To be Kenyan, you have to be born to a Kenyan father—and, even if you were born elsewhere, as long as your father is Kenyan, you’re in. Although being in is not automatic if you are from the north. And you can, of course, also be in if you chose to naturalise—but doing so means that you have to forfeit any citizenship claims you might hold elsewhere.
The post raises fantastic questions that are applicable everywhere. Is citizenship only a matter of documentation, birth, or residence? How can political institutions account for and accommodate people who live in two or more cultures at once?

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