Who is a cameroonian ?

Recently, there has been an outcry by individuals, sometimes a political group, for Cameroon to expunge her Nationality Code, and embrace the dual nationality system. The advocates strongly present dual nationality as a panacea to Cameroon’s brain-drain. Today, the rules relating to the Nationality Law of Cameroon are drawn from two Laws. Firstly, Law No. 68-LF-3 of 11th June 1968, setting up the Cameroon Nationality Code, and secondly, Decree No. 68-DF-478 of 16th December 1968, establishing the Nationality Code. Judicial and Legal Officers: Michel MAHOUVE, Joseph ABE AVEBE, Benoit Placide MEVOUA and Moustapha RAYHANATOU in their book “Practical Guide on Nationality and Change of Name in Cameroon”, believe that the 1968 Nationality Code is important and unique. The experts opine that such characteristics which attract many foreigners from Africa, Asia and Europe, should be showcased at its maximum.

Nationality is basically the state of belonging to a particular country. It is the relationship between a citizen of a nation, customarily involving allegiance by the citizen and protection by the State. There are multiple methods of attaining Cameroon Nationality: by attribution, which includes affiliation and birth, by marriage, by declaration and by naturalisation.

Attribution by affiliation

The attribution of Cameroon Nationality by affiliation is based on Sections 6, 7 and 8 of Law No. 68-LF/3 of 11th June 1968. For this nationality to be attributed, the following tenets must be met: a legitimate child born of Cameroonian parents; an

illegitimate child whose natural parents are both Cameroonians; a legitimate child born of a Cameroonian father or a Cameroonian mother; an illegitimate child born of parents of whom one is Cameroonian, when his affiliation to that one is first established, though the other be foreign. In either case subject to the minor’s right to renounce Cameroon Nationality within 06 months before his majority, he was born out of Cameroon or if, according to the national law of the foreign

parent, he is able to prevail against that nationality. Also, the nationality of Cameroon should be attributed if the case in question is a legitimate child born of a Cameroonian mother and a father of no nationality or of unknown nationality. The same as an illegitimate child born of parents of whom one is Cameroonian, though his affiliation to that one be later established, if the other is of no nationality or of unknown nationality.

It should be mentioned that the Minister of Justice was seized to confirm the Cameroon Nationality of a child born in a foreign land, of a Cameroonian father who recognised him, and of a mother of foreign nationality, where the Law of her country of origin prohibits the child to acquire her nationality. Basing this analysis on the provisions of Section 8 of the Law of 1968, the Minister of Justice considered in this case that the child is a Cameroonian. Indeed, the child who was recognised by his father, and who cannot be attributed his mother’s foreign nationality, may be validly assimilated to a child whose other parent has no nationality. The fundamental issue here is to avoid any risk of rendering such a child stateless.

Nationality by Birth

Cases of attribution of Cameroon Nationality as a result of birth in Cameroon are laid down in Sections 9, 10, 11 & 12 of Law No. 68-LF/3 of 11th June 1968. A child born in Cameroon of unknown parents shall be considered as a Cameroonian. Also, a new-born child found in Cameroon is presumed to have been born in Cameroon and is considered as a Cameroonian. In the same vein, a legitimate child born in Cameroon of foreign parents, of which one of them was born in Cameroon is Cameroonian. A child out of wedlock, born in Cameroon, where the foreign parent with whom affiliation was first established was born in Cameroon, and any person born in Cameroon who cannot claim any other nationality of origin, is Cameroonian by virtue of birth. It should be borne in mind that, in all these cases, the minor can renounce the Cameroon Nationality within 06 months preceding his majority age.

Nationality by Marriage

According to Sections 17, 18, and 19 of Law No. 68/LF/3 of 11th June 1968, marriage is one of the ways through which a person who is not born a Cameroonian can acquire the Cameroon Nationality. Under the Nationality Code, a foreign woman marrying a Cameroonian may acquire Cameroonian Nationality at the moment of celebration of her marriage by express request Acquisition through marriage must be done through a declaration signed before the Judge of the Court of First Instance or Diplomatic Representative of Cameroon abroad, or the President of the Civil Court at the Chief Town of the Subdivision in which the declarant resides. According to Decree No. 68 DF/478 of the 16th December 1968, establishing the rules of procedure under the Nationality Code, such declaration must be done in three copies and signed before or at the time the marriage is being celebrated between the Cameroonian and the foreign woman, or one presumed to be foreign.

The Nationality Code spells out that the acquisition of Cameroonian nationality by marriage may be prevented by a Government Decree, 06 months after the celebration of the marriage while this Law is in force or 06 months from the date of promulgation of this Law for marriages that have already been celebrated.

Nationality by Declaration or Adoption & Restoration

The Cameroonian Nationality can also be attained by declaration. The Nationality Code allows persons who are not Cameroonian nationals to acquire the Cameroonian Nationality by declaration. However, this is subject tothe right by the Government to prevent such acquisition by Decree.

Persons who are foreigners or of other nationalities may declare their desire to acquire the Cameroonian Nationality, provided that the person was born in Cameroon and has been resident in Cameroon for at least 05 years before the declaration. This declaration must be done 06 months before attaining majority. It should be borne in mind that a foreigner who is born in Cameroon but has another nationality may acquire the Cameroonian Nationality by declaring his intent 06 months before majority, and as afore-mentioned, must have been resident in Cameroon for at least 05 years.

The Law does not, however, say whether the 5-year period must be uninterrupted. The said declaration shall be signed before the Judge or President of the Civil Court at the Chief Town of the Subdivision in which the declarant resides. Again, where a foreign child is adopted by a Cameroonian, the child may also declare within 06 months before attaining majority that he claims Cameroonian Nationality provided that he has been resident in Cameroon. A declarant outside Cameroon shall sign the document or formal request before a Diplomatic or Consular Representative of Cameroon.

The Nationality Code makes the registration of the declaration mandatory without which such declarations shall be null and void. Cameroonian Nationality can also be gotten through Restoration. Restoration is the procedure whereby a person who has lost his nationality recovers it.

According to Section 28 of Law No. 68/LF/3 of 11th June 1968, Restoration is granted by the Decree of the Head of State with no condition of age or probation. However, there are conditions to be fulfilled, as stipulated in Sections 28 & 29 of the preceding Law. Conditions such as proving that he was formerly a Cameroonian as well as proof of residence in Cameroon at the time of Restoration. Application for Restoration is submitted to, and done by the Minister of Justice, keeper of the Seals.

Nationality by Naturalisation

Cameroon Nationality may be acquired by foreign citizens who have resided permananetly in Cameroon for 05 consecutive years. Section 24 of the Nationality Code states that a foreigner seeking Cameroonian Nationality may only acquire it by express request. The application for naturalisation shall be addressed to the Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals. The seeker must state crystal-clear the reason why he or she wants to become a citizen of Cameroon. The applicant’s file must include the following documents: Curriculum Vitae, birth registration, marriage certificate, birth certificates of his children who are minors and unmarried, and any other document which ascertains the full knowledge of the facts which may support his application.

On receipt of the application, the Minister of Justice shall cause a police inquiry to be conducted into the morals, conduct and loyalty of the applicant. He shall ascertain the degree of his assimilation to the Cameroonian community and the interest of this naturalisation.

Applicants are also expected to meet character and health standards. This acquisition is provided by a Government Decree and as such is ultimately subject o Government approval. The naturalisation process may be simplified for foreign nationals who have either married a Cameroonian woman, were born in Cameroon, have rendered exceptional services to Cameroon or whose naturalisation would be highly advantageous to the State. Similarly, children born in Cameroon by foreign parents or adopted by Cameroonian parents may adopt Cameroon Nationality at majority.

Naturalisation in Cameroon is finalized by the passing of a Decree of naturalization of the applicant, expected to be published in the Official Gazette. The Decree becomes effective from the date of the signing. The Decree may be revoked within a year from the date of discovery of a mistake or fraud on the part of the applicant, or where the person did not satisfy the conditions required.

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