The opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) has relaunched the acrimonious dual nationality debate in Cameroon by drafting a private members' bill to amend the country’s nationality code adopted in 1968.
While the SDF’s proposed amendments are fairly modest considering widespread calls for a vast overhaul the law, they nonetheless tackle the key issue of dual nationality head-on. In the unlikely event that the amendment becomes the law of the land, “Any Cameroonian citizen who acquires another nationality retains the Cameroonian nationality, except repudiation thereof.”
In the same vein, individuals who previously lost their Cameroonian nationality because the country does not recognize dual citizenship will regain their Cameroonian nationality under this law: "Restoration to [sic] Cameroonian nationality is granted de facto without condition of age or probation, but subject to necessity of proof that the applicant… has been deprived of the Cameroonian nationality as an effect of having willfully acquired or kept a foreign nationality."
Here is the full text of the proposed amendment along with its explanatory statement.
Private Member Bill Modifying and Supplementing Law No. 1968 ‐LF ‐3 OF 11TH June 1968 to Set Up the Cameroon Nationality Code Presented by Hon. JOSHUA NAMBANGI OSIH, Hon, Joseph MBAH‐NDAM & the SDF Parliamentary Group.
Law No. 1968 ‐LF ‐3 of 11th June 1968 to set up the Cameroon nationality code should be modified and
completed in order to reflect our actual and national realities as well as the fundamental aspirations of
the Cameroonian people.
Four principal reasons command this change:
- The necessity to anchor our country onto the current and ever increasing context of globalization.
- The urgent need to normalise the status of many Cameroonian families currently living in very uncomfortable and exceptional circumstances imposed on them by the current law and being lived by many as a denial of the cultural heritage of our country to them for which they are nevertheless considered to be co‐owners. This injustice seriously undermines the harmony of
- these families ‐ who are fundamentally Cameroonian – and at the same time, it plunges these families into an unnecessary and harmful moral insecurity which is detrimental for our country.
- The supreme interest of the image of our country which is also brought about by the exposure and performance of our sons and daughters abroad.
- An encouragement and further motivation of our Diaspora so that it quantitatively and qualitatively increases its participation and contribution to the emergence of our country that we hope to attain a little earlier than expected.
The provisions of Subsection 31 (a) must therefore be removed in order to anchor our nation to the realities of the 21st century. It is an urgency to modernize our nationality code in order to protect the best interests of our compatriots who are usually trapped between the choice of obtaining a nationality to escape an immigrant status and the love of their fatherland. This modification of the law will as well fulfill a promise made by the President of the Republic to the Cameroonian Diaspora during his last official visit to France.
Subsection 31 (a), it must be recalled, was introduced in 1968 to bar the way to the political opposition of the time that lived in large numbers abroad and enjoyed the privileges of citizenship in their host countries. The democratic opening of the nineties in our country no longer requires that we make use of this dispensation of the law to keep political opponents out of the country.
Without naming names, many of our countrymen today that make the pride of our country ‐ high profile statesmen, international footballers and other athletes, artists, writers, opinion leaders and businessmen who are all renowned internationally – and who would like to make their talents, expertise and competence sometimes acquired internationally available to our country, are blocked from doing so by this Subsection 31 ( a). They are then unfortunately unable to serve the country they love, above all.
Whenever they have to choose between their professional, economic and social future, by seeking to obtain citizenship of their host countries and the law of their fatherland, they are immersed in an immeasurable distress coupled with a terrible tear between an objective choice and what they have in their hearts.
The 1968 Law is discriminatory because it is homing in its application. As an illustration, we violate this Law by accepting that, for reasons related to immigration and not their choice of heart, most of our players of the national soccer team have foreign nationalities as second choice. It is obvious that if this had not been the case, they would not return to play for Cameroon. Yet they are our ambassadors and spokesmen of our country in the world which, paradoxically, does not recognize their nationality. It
should also be noted that the provisions of this Law were invoked by Tunisia to disqualify Cameroon for the 2014 World Cup and we were lucky that there was a flaw of procedure.
Beyond Cameroonians living abroad with other nationalities, there is the important case of Cameroonians from so called mixed families consisting of a parent of Cameroonian origin, the other parent from another nationality and their Cameroonian children, who more so are proud of being Cameroonian. The 1968 Law is in denial of our cultural traditions that claim that our children are
Cameroonian even if one of the two parents is not. Because of situations often related to professional or economic requirements, through this outdated law, we discriminate the right of fatherland to many of our sons and daughters and this is sincerely at odds with our time. More seriously, this law requires brides and grooms of Cameroonians to be forced to choose their nationalities and thereby obliging them to choose between what they are and what they have chosen to become by love and conviction. This has the effect to at best often put our fellow compatriots through a true test of martyrdom and at worst prevent unions between foreigners and Cameroonians that would naturally have occurred if our country was in line with its own realities. The current law ensures that most foreign spouses and children of foreign spouses married to Cameroonians are forced to violate the law or make a painful choice between reason and the heart.
Today, thousands of families are waiting for the Cameroonian nationality law to be firmly sealed in logic and justice. Many of them have lived for many years in Cameroon, where they raise their children in their stepfamilies. They are fully integrated in the Cameroonian society. However, these spouses do not to give up their original nationality, which is an integral part of their identity and their culture which they feel that they must pass on to their children, our children. It is absurd that foreigners who come to Cameroon with the sole purpose of plundering the country are welcomed as heroes and those give us children, our children, are forced to queue up for months to receive a residence permit which very often confronts them with the uncertainty of the application of administrative procedures.
It is therefore imperative that Law N° 68 ‐LF –of June 11th 1968 is modified and completed in order for us to no longer require our children, our husbands or our wives to choose between their two parents and their two countries. Furthermore, those who lost their nationality due to the provisions of subsection 31 (a) should be given a chance to be able to restore their Cameroonian nationality through this Private Member Bill.
If we strictly apply this law with the current provisions, our country would not be known as is the case today for our music, our writers and even less for sporting or political exploits. The present law is therefore unfair, regressive and counterproductive for our country.
Most of our compatriots in the Diaspora have acquired another nationality more by necessity than by rejection of our country which is dear to them. Their ability to fully and constructively boost the development process of our nation that is slow to take off is a well‐established fact. The emergence of Cameroon projected for 2035 will have to be with our compatriots in the Diaspora, our binational families and not without or against them. It is therefore important to undertake the adoption of this private member bill that, in addition to adapting the law of 1968 to set up the Cameroon Nationality Code to our current realities, can only bring more prosperity, comfort and wellbeing to our country.
We therefore pray for the house to positively adopt this private member bill into law.
Private Member Bill Modifying and Supplementing Law No. 1968 ‐LF ‐3 OF 11TH June 1968 to Set Up the Cameroon Nationality Code
Instead of: LAW NO. 1968‐LF‐3 OF 11TH JUNE 1968 TO SET UP THE CAMEROON NATIONALITY CODE
It should be read as: LAW NO. 1968‐LF‐3 OF 11TH JUNE 1968 RELATING TO THE NATIONALITY CODE OF
CHAPTER III Acquisition.
A. By Marriage.
Section 17 is amended and is divided into two paragraphs as follows:
Section 17. (1 ) Subject to the provisions of the following articles, the foreign woman married to a Cameroonian citizen may, after five (5) years of marriage and at her express request, acquire Cameroonian nationality.
(2 ) Subject to the provisions of the following articles, the foreign man married to a Cameroonian citizen may, after five (5) years of marriage and at his express request, acquire Cameroonian nationality .
Section 19 is amended as follows:
Section 19. During a period of six months following the application for nationality as stipulated in Section 17 above, the Government may object with written reasons and by decree to the acquisition of the Cameroonian nationality.
Section 28 is divided into four (4) paragraphs as follows
(a) Restoration to Cameroonian nationality shall be conferred by decree , without condition of age orprobation, but subject to necessity of proof that the applicant was formerly a Cameroonian and showing residence in Cameroon at the time of reinstatement.
(b) Restoration to Cameroonian nationality is granted de facto without condition of age or probation, but subject to necessity of proof that the applicant qualifies to be a Cameroonian national under the terms of this law and could not have acquired and given proof of his Cameroonian nationality or has been deprived of the Cameroonian nationality as an effect of having willfully acquired or kept a foreign nationality.
(c) Any Cameroonian citizen who acquires another nationality retains the Cameroonian nationality, except repudiation thereof .
(d) Whenever in the interest of Cameroon or when a Cameroonian national is on the territory of Cameroon, a Cameroonian citizen having retained another nationality may not make use of it nor the effects relating to it, and will be considered only as a Cameroonian citizen.
CHAPTER IV Loss and Forfeiture.
Section 31.Cancel the content of subsection a) which read as follows:
"Any Cameroon adult national who wilfully acquires or keeps a foreign nationality". Subsection b) becomes subsection a) and subsection c) becomes subsection b) as follows:
Cameroonian nationality is lost by:
a) Renunciation under this law;
b) any person who, occupying a post in a public service of an international or foreign body, retains that post notwithstanding an injunction by the Cameroonian Government to resign it.
END OF MODIFICATION.
The rest remains unchanged.