The Colbert Factor
How one Can be a Citizen of a Country and Not be a National
This reflection is inspired by the ongoing high profile case at the Yaounde military court pitting Sisiku Juluis Ayuk Tabe, Wilfred Tasang, NFOR Ngala NFOR, the rest of the Nerra 10, and the state of Cameroon with the former since renouncing their Cameroonian nationality
It is the more informed by the 1968 Cameroon Nationality Code and the fact that government continues to request certificates of nationality as precondition to sit national examinations or occupy important office in Cameroon, thereby justifying the fact that it is not just enough to be born in Cameroon, own a birth certificate or national identity card to be considered Cameroonian
It is also inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, which in its Article 15, categorically states that no one shall be denied his/her nationality and /or the right to change his/her nationality.
Public, Criminal and Constitutional Law experts have found difficulty demarcating the boundaries between citizenship and nationality. For one thing, some countries do not distinguish between citizenship and nationality. For another, citizenship and nationality are quite distinct for a majority of countries. Being a new concept that came with the emergence of the notion of modern day nation states, nationality is conferred on a country by an agreed upon constitution, and in relation to international law. Citizenship is a concept that is as old as the days of the Greek City states.
Simply put, nationality is an ethnic or racial concept. On the other hand, citizenship is a legal or juristic concept. The nationality of a person indicates his/her place or country of birth, while citizenship indicates that the person is registered as a citizen by the government of that respective country.
Although today nationality straddles constitutional law, criminal law, and the politics of sovereignty of a country viz a viz international law and various international covenants, it was originally a racial or ethnic notion until the emergence of modern day states where tribes and communities surrendered their nationality to the new nation states. Before then, tribes like Kom, Nso, Kuta, Bassa, Bamilekes, Ewondo, Bakweri, Bafaw, etc, etc, were considered distinct nations and nationalities. One could be surprised to hear a Kom person express his/her nationality in a manner one would not believe he/she thinks another country exist besides Kom.
This point is demonstrated in triumphant details in the book: ‘ As I Move On I Drop On’, by Ngi Christopher under the pen name Ben JAMA. In the novel which has pushed its way up the best selling charts only months after its publication, a tribal conflict of unimaginable magnitude plays out over the question of each village community struggling to jealously keep its distinct nationality, and with Akwenko worried over the fact that Turung’s marriage to Vapio who is from Jevi, would only go a long way to dilute Akwenko’s distinct nationality in the Mbembe clan.
Since nationality today is a territorial concept arising from the modern nation state phenomenon, the abstraction ‘state’ becomes the highest level of human consciousness and it’s expression through interrelationship. It also goes without saying that since the constitution formalizes a state, it becomes imperative for citizens to obey and respect the state because the citizen is the microcosmic representative of the state.
Now that the fundamental difference between nationality and citizenship has been adequately established to the effect that a person is a national of a country through birth, inheritance or naturalisation while one becomes a citizen of a country by fulfilling legal requirements that enables the person to t…