citizen: rights and duties

All you need to know about being a citizen

Citizen is the converse of refugee. Previously, we have talked about refugees and their rights. It follows that one cannot talk about refugees without talking about citizens.

Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 deals with citizenship. Thereunder, the benefits of being a citizen are:

  1. The rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship, subject to the limits provided or permitted by the Constitution; and
  2. A Kenyan passport and any document of registration or identification issued by the State to citizens.

There are a number of ways, subject to a given jurisdiction, of acquiring citizenship. They are:

By birth

A person is a citizen by birth if on the day of the person’s birth, whether or not the person is born in Kenya, either the mother or father of the person is a citizen.  Also, a child found in Kenya who is, or appears to be, less than eight years of age, and whose nationality and parents are not known, is presumed to be a citizen by birth

By registration

A person who has been married to a citizen for a period of at least seven years is entitled on application to be registered as a citizen. Also a person who has been lawfully resident in Kenya for a continuous period of at least seven years, and who satisfies the conditions prescribed by an Act of Parliament, may apply to be registered as a citizen.  Even a child who is not a citizen, but is adopted by a citizen, is entitled on application to be registered as a citizen.

By naturalization

Citizenship by naturalization is usually given to persons who are ordinarily foreigners but who have transitioned into citizens. The foreigners must however confirm to certain standards before they are granted citizenship by naturalization. The example which quickly comes to mind when we talk of naturalization is the Makonde Community of Kenya. They were a stateless people who came to Kenya over 70 years ago as immigrant workers. They reproduced and reproduced, but stayed in the country. They made an appeal to the president who considered their request and they were given citizenship, by naturalization.

By descent

Other constitutions, like of Uganda provide for citizenship by descent.  Under citizenship by descent, children born abroad whose descendants are Ugandans may be given citizenship upon application.

The constitution guarantees that citizenship is not lost through marriage or the dissolution of marriage.

The constitution also permits dual citizenship. It is emphasized in the constitution that a citizen by birth does not lose citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country.

There are instances when citizenship may be revoked and they are:

  1. If a person acquired citizenship by registration, the citizenship may be revoked if the person—
  2. acquired the citizenship by fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact;
  3. has, during any war in which Kenya was engaged, unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy or been engaged in or associated with any business that was knowingly carried on in such a manner as to assist an enemy in that war;
  • has, within five years after registration, been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or longer; or
  1. Has, at any time after registration, been convicted of treason, or of an offence for which a penalty of at least seven years imprisonment may be imposed; or a more severe penalty may be imposed.
  2. If it is the citizenship of a person who was presumed to be a citizen by birth, it may be revoked if:
  3. the citizenship was acquired by fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact by any person;
  4. the nationality or parentage of the person becomes known, and reveals that the person was a citizen of another country; or
  • The age of the person becomes known, and reveals that the person was older than eight years when found in Kenya.

General benefits of being a citizen

A citizen, like I have already pointed out above is entitled to voting. Non-citizens in any country do not determine who a political leader will be. That benefit is only a reserve for citizens.

Equally, it is a reserve for citizens to stand for political office in their country.

A citizen of any country has the right to bring his or her relatives who are out of their country and to petition for their permanent residence

It is only citizens in Kenya who are eligible for public jobs. Non-citizens may be employed only by the private and non-governmental sectors.

Citizens also have duties and they include: Paying taxes, supporting and defending the constitution, participating in the electoral process, tolerating other people’s differences and be an active member of his community.

Now that you know all this, go be a good citizen! Enjoy being a citizen!


This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 4, Issue 4 of April 28th, 2017

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