At the time Madagascar gained independence, only those who had been naturalized French citizens had the opportunity to choose Malagasy citizenship. Foreigners who had settled in the country, but did not have French citizenship were left stateless. Many of these foreigners have been in the country for four or five generations and are still waiting to be naturalized. These individuals are mostly Muslim or of Indian/Pakistani decent. Those of Indian/Pakistani decent, called Karana, occupy a unique space in Malagasy society because the Karana are estimated to contribute close to one-third of the country’s GDP. Preventing the Karana from accessing citizenship disincentives the wealthiest in the country from investing in its growth. As Madagascar develops, access to citizenship will come to the forefront of the political agenda. The government has the opportunity now to peacefully reform the citizenship system and build a strong foundation for a vibrant participatory democracy in the future. Madagascar can reform the citizenship system by amending the Nationality Code to protect against statelessness and discrimination, addressing institutional barriers to access, and promoting integration of the Muslim and Karana communities.
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