British citizenship

Kenyan citizen Forced to renounce your British citizenship: Image: Adobe stock

Are you a Kenyan citizen forced to renounce your British citizenship?

If as a Kenyan citizen you were ever forced to renounce your British citizenship, Breytenbachs can help you trace your case.

British citizenship

Kenyan citizen Forced to renounce your British citizenship: Image: Adobe stock

If you were ever forced to renounce your British citizenship, Breytenbachs might be able to assist you. Breytenbachs successfully applied for our client’s British citizenship after she was forced to renounce her British citizenship.

Facts of the Matter

Our client was born in Kenya and was forced to renounce her British citizenship on or before her 23rd Birthday. 

Section 2 of the original Independence Constitution of Kenya stated that every person born in Kenya after the 11th of December 1963 shall become a Citizen of Kenya at the date of his birth, provided that a person shall not become a Citizen of Kenya by virtue of the following:

  • Neither of their parents is a Citizen of Kenya
  • His/her father is a citizen of a country with which Kenya is at war and the birth occurs in a place then under occupation by that country. 

This Section was later repealed, and Section 89 was introduced in the Constitution of Kenya. However, this Section 89 was found to be incompatible with government policy. 

All would have been in order as the British Nationality Act 1981 had made a similar change, but for the background to the measure, the mythology employed to bring it about and its operation in practice.

The public in Kenya was uninformed about this matter. The Bill seeking to amend the Constitution was published in the Kenya Gazette on 10 May 1985. Basically, it merely stated that “part of the provisions had been misinterpreted to mean that it did not matter if neither of the person’s parents was a Kenyan citizen as long as the father was not a diplomat”. 

This was a very curious distortion of what had, in fact, already happened for some time, which was that the immigration authorities had taken to denying the claim to Kenyan Citizenship to those born after independence unless they could show that at least one of their parents was a Citizen of Kenya at the time of their birth, contrary to the view expressed by the Attorney General then.

The Immigration Authorities indeed ignored this. 

At the Independence of Kenya, a large section of Kenya’s population retained British Nationality. Children born to those of them who were Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies themselves became such Citizens by descent under Section 5 of the British Nationality Act 1948. 

Therefore, if an applicant was born in Kenya before 19 July 1985, the date of commencement of the 1985 Act, then the British view is that the person concerned is a citizen as well as a British Overseas Citizen. Notwithstanding that the Kenyan authorities may refuse to recognize such a person to be a Citizen of Kenya under the 1985 Act.

The only way around this obstacle was for the applicant to wait until the age of 23 and then rely on the provisions of Section 97(1) of the Kenyan Constitution. 

According to this provision a person who upon attaining the age of 21, is a citizen of Kenya and also a citizen of some other country ceases to be a citizen of Kenya on the specified date unless she/he has renounced such other citizenship and taken an oath of allegiance to Kenya, the specified date in this connection being the attainment by that person of the age of 23. 

People in this position are thus put in a most unfair situation.

They are not regarded as citizens of Kenya and are expected to regularise their immigration status to Kenyan authorities. 

In the matter of Dubai Bank Ltd v Galadari & others, it was held that if the issue as to whether any of the persons in the previous principals was or was not a Citizen of Kenya were to arise in the context of proceedings in an English Court, in the circumstances discussed above, then the court could reach its conclusion on the matter irrespective of an official certificate, if there is one, from the Kenyan authorities as to the status of the persons concerned.

Based on the injustice at that point in time, we were able to again and successfully apply for our client’s British citizenship. 

How Breytenbachs can help you

Please contact our office if you had to renounce your citizenship at some point in time, as you might have a claim to British Citizenship.  Breytenbachs have a service where we narrow down the routes to determine whether you might have a claim to British Citizenship should the Bill be passed in its current form. Breytenbachs will be able to look into your case to determine whether you have any possible claim to British Nationality.

If you are interested in a British Nationality Status trace or would like to discuss any UK immigration issue, please email us at or visit our website at

You can also phone your nearest Breytenbachs on the following numbers: Durban – 031 880 2777, Cape Town – 021 879 0969 or Pretoria – 012 460 9959, or our London office at +44 207 442 2160.

Please note that the information in this article does not constitute professional advice. It is provided for general information purposes without any warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied.

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