Cablegate: Statelessness in Cote D'ivoire

DE RUEHAB #0997/01 2681711
R 251711Z SEP 07 ZDK





E.O. 12958: N/A

ABIDJAN 00000997 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary. Refugee Office Program Assistant
participated in a September 13 trip organized by the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
and the Ministry of Justice to the towns of Meagui and Soube
in western Cote d'Ivoire. The purpose of the trip was to
examine statelessness issues. The trip participants learned
that, as expected, the vast majority of potentially stateless
persons are of Burkinabe origin, followed by persons whose
origin is in other Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS) countries. The lesson learned from this first
assessment is that the problem of statelessness seems to
result more from low awareness and interest in identification
and naturalization procedures than from actual denial of
citizenship by the government of Cote d'Ivoire. End Summary.

2. (U) Refugee Office Program Assistant participated in a
September 13 trip organized by UNHCR and the Ministry of
Justice to the towns of Meagui and Soube in western Cote
d'Ivoire. Trip participants met with Secretary General of
the Meagui Sub-Prefecture Vincent Sakpa Bra, who explained
that the city hosts longtime migrants, mostly from Burkina
Faso, but also from Mali, Guinea, Niger, and Senegal. Bra
said that Burkinabes and Malians work in many coffee and
cocoa plantations in the region. According to the 1998
national census, Meagui has a population of 211,900, but the
breakdown by nationality has not been made public. According
to Bra, the Sub-Prefecture used to register migrants' arrival
in the area, but stopped doing so when the 2002 political
crisis broke out in Cote d'Ivoire. He indicated that a
substantial number of foreigners, especially the ones who
live in remote areas, do not register their children's births
at his office. Bra said city officials do not expect any
major problems during the hearings, scheduled to start
September 25, to provide replacement birth certificates to
persons who never received one or lost theirs.

3. (U) Bra introduced the trip participants to a
representative of the Burkinabe community, a 34-year old man
who was born and raised in Cote d'Ivoire. This Burkinabe
explained that he is not interested in acquiring Ivorian
citizenship, but might consider applying for naturalization
if there were a compelling reason to do so. It seems that
the issue of land ownership is the key factor in
decision-making for most rural migrants. Secretary General
Bra said his office had assisted migrants with applications
for citizenship and that 5 persons obtained citizenship. He
did not clarify if any applicant whom his office assisted
was denied citizenship.

4. (U) Trip participants met with Jean de Dieu Zoundi
Mitibkieta, the Consul of Burkina Faso who has responsibility
for the southwestern region of Cote d'Ivoire. Zoundi
Mitibkieta himself migrated to Cote d'Ivoire in 1947 and
became an Ivorian citizen. The consul claimed that there are
over 3 million Burkinabe migrants in the southwestern region
of Cote d'Ivoire. He based this figure on field assessments
conducted between 1996 and 1998. (Comment. This figure seems
extremely high given Cote d'Ivoire's 2004 estimated total
population of 18,700,000. End Comment.) The Consul stated
that although there are numerous cases of Burkinabe migrants
who lack birth certificates and/or identity papers, only a
very small number are unable to prove any legal relationship
with either Burkina Faso or Cote d'Ivoire.

5. (SBU) Comment. Persons born to one Ivorian parent
anywhere in the world are Ivorian citizens. According to the
Nationality Code, persons born in Cote d'Ivoire of foreign
parents before December 1961 were entitled to apply for
Ivorian citizenship in an expedited manner. A 2005
Presidential decision extended the expedited process to
persons born in Cote d'Ivoire of foreign parents between
December 20, 1961 and January 25, 1973. The expedited
citizenship process requires documentation of birth in Cote
d'Ivoire. The potential number of stateless persons will
become clearer after the "audiences foraines" process, which
began September 25, is completed. The "audiences foraines"
are tribunals that will issue birth certificates to persons
who never had them or who lost them. The issuance of birth
certificates by the audiences foraines will permit many to
take advantage of the expedited naturalization process. The
potentially stateless will be those who have no documentation
proving foreign citizenship, but who were unable to produce
witnesses for the audiences foraines attesting to their birth
in Cote d'Ivoire. UNHCR's work with the National Institute
of Statistics to include recent variables in the 2008
National Census to allow for identification and counting of
the number of potential stateless people is important and
should be supported if possible. Considering that the last
census took place in 1998, this will provide a unique,
longed-for, opportunity to obtain reliable population figures

ABIDJAN 00000997 002 OF 002

and serve as a basis for decision-making about future PRM
programming. UNHCR is planning a longer trip with the
Ministry of Justice's Human Rights Section to visit
additional villages and settlements hosting Burkinabe migrant
communities. End Comment.


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