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The citizenship dilemma of Southern Sudanese communities in the post-secession era in Khartoum

Mohamed A. G. Bakhit
p. 47-63


The aim of this paper is to investigate the processes of citizenship changes for South Sudanese citizens who were previously formally considered to be Sudanese citizens and have remained residents of Khartoum’s shantytowns since South Sudan gained independence in 2011.
The paper argues that there are currently two types of citizenship for the Southern Sudanese communities in Khartoum – legal citizenship and ‘community’ citizenship – and that this has allowed considerable numbers of people who do not enjoy legal citizenship to survive and support their social lives through community citizenship. ‘Community citizenship’ status differs from legal citizenship in terms of its dynamics and evolution, by which it is negotiated, constructed, and communicated through the interactions of Southern Sudanese people on a daily basis.
To what extent does this community citizenship give these people what they need, and to what degree can it protect them? These are the questions this paper will attempt to answer.

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What is citizenship?
Legal citizenship versus ‘community’ citizenship for the Southern Sudanese in Khartoum
Legal citizenship
‘Community’ citizenship
The pros and cons of ‘community’ citizenship

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After six decades of struggle for independence and two civil wars, South Sudan recently became Africa’s newest state and the 193rd member of the United Nations. In practice, however, for the Southern Sudanese residents of Sudan, the question of whether an individual becomes a citizen of the new country or remains a citizen of the Republic of Sudan has been an intricate socio-political question, a complex legal issue, and a practical matter of rights, documents, relocation, and personal attachments.

“Between 1983 and 1991, close to 3 million people were estimated to have been displaced from the South. By mid 1991, some 425,000 of them had taken refuge in Uganda and Ethiopia. The remainder flocked to southern cities, such as Juba and Malakal, and an estimated 2.3 million southerners took refuge in the North, of whom 1.8 million settled in Greater Khartoum” (de Geoffroy 2007: 6-7). The favoured destination clearly shifted towards Khartoum during this period as the dimensions of displace...

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Mohamed A. G. Bakhit, « The citizenship dilemma of Southern Sudanese communities in the post-secession era in Khartoum », Égypte/Monde arabe,Troisième série, 14 | 2016, mis en ligne le 21 octobre 2018, consulté le 22 janvier 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/ema.3575

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Mohamed A. G. Bakhit

Mohamed A. G. Bakhit has a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Bayreuth, Germany. The title of his 2015 thesis is: “Identity and Lifestyles Construction in Multi-Ethnic Shantytowns: A Case Study of Al-Baraka Community in Khartoum, Sudan”. He has been a lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Khartoum, Sudan since 2010. His main research interests are identity change, urbanization, minority groups, and citizenship.

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