National, News

Impending dawn to end statelessness 

By William Madouk


A journey to end statelessness and limit its risks has commenced as members of the transitional national legislative assembly, strike a heated debate on the convention.

A stateless person is defined by international law as someone who is “not considered a national by any state under the operation of its law”.

The term sometimes refers to refugees and asylum seekers, although not all refugees are considered stateless.

At the moment, South Sudan has not ratified those conventions, but the irony is true as the lawmakers are in full swing today to change the narrative.

Clerk of the August House, Makuc Makuc, on Sunday, notified the parliamentarians to turn up in large numbers to discuss, “status of stateless persons.”

“Office of the clerk to Assembly has the pleasure to notify all Hon. Members that there is a sitting of the August House on Monday, October 16, 2023, at 10:00 a.m.,” Makuc noted.

According to the Clerk, the sitting covers the presentation of the joint report of the TNLA standing specialized committee on a very crucial convention for final ratification by August House.

“Some of the conventions to be ratified include the treaty relating to the status of stateless persons (1954) and the convention on the reduction of statelessness (1961),” according to the clerk.

This magical stride will be a sigh of relief to the people who are stateless in that they will be granted their freedoms in the country, including refugees, recently displaced by the conflict in Sudan.

At the end of 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that 4.4 million people worldwide were stateless or of undetermined nationality.

Stateless case recorded

On December 22, 2021, Animu Athiei was disowned by South Sudan and Ugandan governments.

She was dragged into a van by immigration officers while leaving a café along the airport road in Juba. The 38-year-old Animu, a civil rights activist and politician, didn’t fathom this drama would end in two months of detention.

According to reliable sources, Athiei was born in Juba but later sought refuge in Uganda when the civil war intensified. Although her return to the country had been her dream after signing of the comprehensive peace agreement, it was a ride on a stumpy road.

In 2016, Athiei joined the public service as a vibrant speechwriter full of synergy of service during the tenure of then-Vice President Taban Deng Gai.

When the revitalized agreement was signed in 2018, President Salva Kiir named 550 parliamentarians as stipulated in the revitalized agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. Athiei, alias Animu, was among the lawmakers.

She occupied one of the 30 seats allocated to Other Political Parties (OPP), a coalition of many opposition parties, as a female representative in Central Equatorial State.

But her appointment sparked criticism that questioned facts surrounding her South Sudanese nationality on social media and on the streets of Juba. Many said she was a Ugandan, and so President Kiir revoked her appointment.

Athiei later filed multiple lawsuits against the government for confiscating her passport at a Juba court as well as regional and continental courts in Arusha.

She blamed misogyny and tribalism in what remains a deeply conservative society for her predicament.

Media reports indicate that she hails from a minority ethnic group called Keliko, which is native to South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Keliko is mostly Christian by religion, but she was ironically born into a Muslim family.

The Convention

On December 13, 1975, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness entered into force.

The convention provides a number of standards regarding the acquisition and loss of nationality, including automatic loss, renunciation, and deprivation of nationality.

In 1974, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) requested that UNHCR undertake the functions established by the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

While the convention had only 37 state parties on January 1, 2011, 33 states pledged to accede to it at a ministerial event organized by UNHCR in December 2011. As of September 1, 2015, the number of state parties had increased to 64.

States bound by the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child are obligated to ensure that every child acquires a nationality.

The convention requires states to implement this provision in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless and in a manner that is in the best interests of the child.

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