Dual citizenship is embodied in the concept of Pan-Africanism, which promotes the cooperation among and integration of the African people. Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey notably said: “Africa for the Africans – those at home and those abroad.” This would involve both elements of the African Diaspora: those involuntarily taken from Africa in the slave trade that comprise the historic African Diaspora and those who left their African countries voluntarily to emigrate elsewhere in the world that comprise the modern-day African Diaspora. Until the wave of independence among African colonies in the 1950s, there was limited possibility of dual citizenship for the Diaspora except in the only two independent African nations: Liberia, founded by freed North American slaves in 1847, or the empire of Ethiopia when it was not under European domination.
Generally, African official policies on dual citizenship currently refer to laws and regulations governing whether a modern-day African Diaspora member from a particular African country may retain citizenship if he or she assumes citizenship in another country. Specific laws spelling out the rights and responsibilities of a member of the historic African Diaspora who wishes to take on citizenship in an African country, in addition to that of their current country of origin are few and far between.
The United States does not require that a person renounce citizenship in their country of origin so long as they maintain loyalty to the United States. Currently, the largest group of dual citizens in America today is immigrants from Mexico. An increasing number of naturalized Americans from Africa, the Caribbean or elsewhere in the African Diaspora are not automatically forced to renounce their citizenship in their country of origin, although their home country may call for such a revocation of one of their citizens who take on another nationality.
Just as Israel has provided the right of return for all who can establish their Jewish heritage, many in the historic African Diaspora have presumed that a similar right of return should be granted to those whose ancestors left the continent involuntarily. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for a “right of return” that establishes the right of any person to return and re-enter his or her country of origin. However, a lack of records for many members of the historic African Diaspora past a certain point in their family history means a specific, documentable link to an African ethnic group or country has been difficult, if not impossible, to establish. Members of the historic African Diaspora are “children of Africa,” but usually not legally authenticated descendants of any particular currently existing country, kingdom or territory.
In recent years, the African Ancestry company has developed a DNA test that can authenticate genetic linkage to African ethnic groups and the country in which that ethnic group now resides. As the company states, the test indicates where the particular strain of an ethnic group is located today and not where they were when one’s ancestors were taken off the continent. This test does establish a scientifically verifiable link to a specific African country or countries, since tests often reveal multiple ethnic heritages located in more than one country.
To date, there are 25 countries providing ethnic matches to those taking the African Ancestry test. The leading countries with links identified by the test are: Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria and Sierra Leone – each representing greater than 15% of results. Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Liberia and Senegal represent between 5-10% of results. Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Somalia, South Africa and Sudan each represent less than 5% of results.
On behalf of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, I head a committee that includes representatives from the Universal Negro Improvement Association – African Communities League (the UNIA-ACL, the late Marcus Garvey’s organization), the African Diaspora Ancestral Commemoration Institute (ADACI) and the African Diaspora Dual Citizenship Committee. We have devised a framework paper for dual citizenship that is being presented to selected African governments for action in creating laws and regulations that will make dual citizenship for all members of the African Diaspora possible.
I’ll have more on this as developments unfold.