What is behind the rushed adoption of new law on Rwandan citizenship?

By The Rwandan Lawyer

Introduction 

On 27 July 2021 was published the Organic law no 002/2021.ol of 16/07/2021 governing Rwandan nationality. The legislation of nationality has been long counted among laws which did not raise any legal worry till the famous trial of Paul Rusesabagina who mentioned the issue of double nationality excluding the Rwandan citizenship in favor of his Belgian nationality and basing on the latter to object against the Rwandan courts’ jurisdiction on his case. Is there any legal challenge intended to be addressed before the pronouncement of the decision of the court on the fate of the hero of hotel Rwanda? Throughout the present lines, there is discussed such an issue among many others.

1.The outstanding provisions of the new law on nationality 

The new law contains a series of provisions which are similar to the those of the previous law of 2008 but as far as the contention of Paul Rusesabagina is concerned, there are some field which must have been emphasized to probably help the judge who is examining the case in terms of settling legal loopholes of the previous legislation.

1)Definitions 

 1 º Rwandan origin: a relationship linking a person to Rwanda as a result of having one parent of Rwandan origin;

2º Rwandan nationality: a relationship between an individual and Rwanda resulting from being of Rwandan nationality by origin or by acquisition; 

3º Rwandan nationality by origin: Rwandan nationality resulting from being born to at least one parent who is a Rwandan national by origin;

2)revocation, renunciation and recovery of Rwandan nationality

1°Application for renunciation of Rwandan nationality: An applicant for renunciation of Rwandan nationality submits his or her application in writing to the organ in charge of Rwandan nationality. The applicant for renunciation of Rwandan nationality by acquisition on grounds of honour submits his or her application in writing to the President of the Republic. An applicant for renunciation of Rwandan nationality must be of the age of majority.

 2°: Approval of renunciation of Rwandan nationality : Cabinet, upon proposal by the organ in charge of Rwandan nationality, grants to the applicant approval of renunciation of Rwandan nationality. The President of the Republic grants to the applicant approval of renunciation of Rwandan nationality by acquisition on grounds of honour. However, renunciation of Rwandan nationality is not approved if it may render the applicant a refugee or a stateless person.

3°Effect of renunciation of Rwandan nationality: Renunciation of Rwandan nationality by origin has effect only on the person who has renounced it. Renunciation of Rwandan nationality by acquisition has also effect on a child under the age of majority whose both parents renounced Rwandan nationality by acquisition.

2) Dual nationality

1°Definition of dual nationality: Dual nationality means a status in which a person concurrently holds Rwandan nationality and the nationality of one or multiple States.

 2° Declaration of dual nationality: A Rwandan national with dual nationality declares that dual nationality within three (3) months as of the date on which he or she acquired another nationality. 3°Procedure for declaring dual nationality: An Order of the Minister determines the procedure for declaring dual nationality. 

4°Precedence of nationality :In case a Rwandan national holds dual nationality, only Rwandan nationality is considered in cases involving compliance with the Laws of Rwanda.

2.Analysis

1)the issue of disputes relating to double nationality

The new law on Rwandan nationality seems intending to remove a certain confusion which was arising from the organic law of 2008.On one hand, the previous law put aside the definitions of Rwandan origin; Rwandan nationality; nationality by origin and double nationality, a loophole which may benefit to a litigant who can raise it or abuse it in terms of defense means especially by alleging that the law is silent about those concepts to the point that nothing proves his/her Rwandan origin. On the other hand, article 33 of this legal text reads: For persons holding more than one nationality, including that of Rwanda, only the latter shall be considered in cases involving compliance with Rwandan laws. 

In case there is a problem of knowing the nationality that should be considered for a person with more than one nationality, the nationality of the country the person with many nationalities resides in shall be the one to be considered. In other cases, consideration shall be given to the nationality of the country with which he or she has the closest relationship.

Overtly, the content of the second paragraph of this law was not solving the issue of precedence of nationality in favor of the Rwandan prosecution position because the last residence of Paul Rusesabagina is not in Rwanda but either in Belgium or in US.

The new organic law on nationality downright cancels this paragraph on the precedence of nationality by merely maintaining the content of the first paragraph mutatis mutandis whereby its states that in case a Rwandan national holds dual nationality, only Rwandan nationality is considered in cases involving compliance with the Laws of Rwanda.

2)The reason of a rush adoption 

From our reliable sources, a large team of judges and court clerks are now sent in urgent mission of work at Musanze where they are tasked to deeply revisit all the audiences held on the case of Rusesabagina Paul and draft a judgment, all this within 20 days. We think that they are facing a series of legal challenges and punctually asked the services of the prime minister to urgently issue the official gazette where is published the concerned organic law before the deadline they have been assigned and that of the pronouncement of the verdict and given the impact that such a judgment may entail on national and especially on international levels.

Conclusion 

The trial involving Paul Rusesabagina has impacted on the Rwandan diplomatic relations with western superpowers which in general disapproved his unlawful rendition and disagree with the eventual respect of the fair trial requirements from the Rwandan courts. To repair what can no longer be repaired, the legislator, together with the court which judged her, get lost in legal speculations which are often irrelevant because everything is screwed up in advance and the recent detections of the use of pegasus to track down opponents of the regime only aggravate its already moribund diplomacy

LEAVE A REPLY