Proof of citizenship is already a difficult issue and will be extremely difficult without the use of the birth certificate in our Country. Differences exist between nationality and citizenship. The differences bother on rights and obligations of people. The lack of clarity on citizenship and nationality on some documents issued in the country will make the debate about the birth certificate not giving enough evidence to prove citizenship worse.
An individual only acquires accrued citizenship if there is evidence of his birth occurring in Ghana or elsewhere with a parent or a grandparent being Ghanaian. On the surface of it, the birth certificate provides information with regard to the nationality of the parents, the mother and father. The citizenship of the individual is derived from the nationality or citizenship status of the parents or a grandparent. The registration of the birth of an individual alone does not give adequate information to prove the citizenship of the applicant or the holder of the birth certificate subsequently.
If children are born to USA nationals in Ghana and by chance the birth of the children are registered or can be registered at the Birth and Death Registry, the nationality of the parents on the birth certificate will be the feature to look out for if the children so desire to acquire citizenship by birth. The nationality of the parents will be a hindrance for the children to acquire citizenship in Ghana.
The Birth and Death Registry is a legal entity whose purpose of establishment and products should not be considered second-rate. It must provide documents that can be relied on for prima facie evidence or information that will help establish limpid proof of the citizenship of the people of Ghana.
Even if the Birth and Death Registry was not established to register citizens, the documents it issues give accrued citizenship on the strength of them (birth certificates) giving the nationality of the parents. The nationality of the parents on the birth certificate plays an important role in determining the citizenship status of the holder. Nationality and citizenship are used interchangeably. The Birth and Death Registry may have a more serious responsibility than statistical purposes. Hospitals can play the role of giving statistical data about birth and death. The information about the parents would not have been important to capture.
The birth certificate essentially gives individuals citizenship by descent from the parents. It is difficult to prove this with any document except the birth certificate. The law guarantees that if an individual is born in the UK to a person or persons with Ghanaian roots, the person qualifies to be a Ghanaian by birth inherited from the parents.
Citizenship is a legal status that gives rights to individuals and obligations or duties that the people owe the state and other citizens. Nationality indicates where an individual has been born or holds citizenship with a country. The attainment of citizenship may not be determined at birth because only rights are possessed by children. Children may not be able to perform certain duties or obligations until they reach age 18.
The birth certificate cannot be a document that can be used for purposes of identification because of the lack of a “face” (photo) on it. There is no ambiguity about it. But biometric verification of holders of certain documents was introduced recently. In the past, about two decades ago, the passport did not have biometric features and was issued like the birth certificate. Therefore, the argument that the birth certificate does not have features for verification purposes is untenable.
In Ghana, proof of citizenship is a big challenge. The citizenship Act outlines important features that qualify a person as a Ghanaian. The date of birth, the place of birth and the nationality or citizenship of the parents. The law mentions the date that an individual must be born and the citizenship status of the parents or the grandparents as being important. Besides the birth certificate giving information about the registration of the birth of the holder, it gives information about the nationality or citizenship status of the parents. The citizenship status of the parents of the holder confers rights and obligations on the holder.
The law sometimes deviate from common sense and logic and so the legal reasons offered to explain the birth certificate not providing proof of citizenship do not follow logic and common sense principles. The information of the Ghana passport and the Ghana card are generated from the birth certificate. Does the argument of the fruit of a poisoned tree not apply here? It is better to review this decision with principles of common sense law. The current explanations are on the blink.
In the future, the court may have to review its stance on this matter. The birth certificate appears to be the best document to provide adequate evidence of the citizenship of a person. The other documents that are preferred currently can be obtained fraudulently. The father and mother and perhaps eyewitness, can give better information about the birth and parents of a person than guarantors. The Birth and Death Registry should be tasked to issue authentic documents with verifiable information. The birth certificate does not only indicate the registration of birth, it gives the details of the nationality of the parents which are key in tracing the parentage of the holder.
Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, A growing Activist and A Religion Enthusiast.