Sudan’s parliament on Wednesday gave initial approval to cancel the citizenship of South Sudanese, state news agency SUNA said, less than a week after South Sudan became independent.
South Sudan became Africa’s newest nation on Saturday after voting in January for independence in a referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.
Under the bill requiring final reading by the government-controlled assembly, anyone taking up citizenship of the new Republic of South Sudan will lose Sudanese nationality, SUNA said.
The move will add to the legal uncertainty of southerners in the north.
Despite a mass migration back to the south since October –some 360,000 are already thought to have returned –more than one million southerners remain in the north, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), many of whom were born there.
The newly amended law, which awaits its third reading on Monday, “deals with cases where Sudanese nationality is automatically cancelled for any person acquiring the nationality of the state of South Sudan,” SUNA said.
Tens of thousands have been stranded on the way home waiting for transport or financial assistance, the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR says.
Economists say many southerners will stay in the north to find work as the underdeveloped and war-ravaged south offers few opportunities.
Prior to southern independence on Saturday, the Khartoum government had already ruled out the possibility of dual nationality for southerners remaining in the north, and dismissed all those working in the public sector.
“For the southerners that want to work in the private sector in the north, they will have to get permission and residency permits,” Sudan’s top presidential aide, Nafie Ali Nafie, said late last month.
But he also said that there would be a nine-month transitional period, allowing them “to settle their situations.”
Sudan and South Sudan have yet to agree on a range of issues such as sharing oil revenues, assets or ending border violence.
The northern central bank said earlier this week it would end the joint banking system with the southern central bank and treat banks from South Sudan like any other foreign institute.
(Sara Ghasemilee, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org