Is Loi Lamine Gueye- law n ° 46-940 of May 7, 1946, the law granting citizenship rights to nationals of the French colonies active today? How many countries(former French colonies) had annulled this while attaining independence? And, has this been annulled by France as well after the gradual dissolution of French Union?

1 Answer 1


Note: The links will be French language as they were better than the English language sources I could find. However, see bottom for two English-language references.

Historical Context

In 1946, France was in the middle of restructuring after World War II. One of the major issues was its relationship with its colonies. Having been under Nazi occupation during the war, many in France did not want to appear as a Nazi-like power to their colonies. However, it did not want to give the colonies equal power and become a "colony of its former colonies" [1, pg. 9-10].

It was with this context that the provisional French government set out to write a new constitution for France. However, this issue was so important, that the Lamine Guèye law was passed ahead of the Constitution of 1946. It states in its original French:

À partir du 1er juin 1946, tous les ressortissants des territoires d'outre-mer (Algérie comprise) ont la qualité de citoyen, au même titre que les nationaux français de la métropole et des territoires d'outre-mer. Des lois particulières établiront les conditions dans lesquelles ils exerceront leurs droits de citoyens.

Teska's translation [2, pg. 1]:

Beginning on the 1st of June 1946, all inhabitants of the overseas territories (including Algeria) have the quality of citizen, of the same title as French nationals from the metropole and overseas territories. Specific laws will establish the conditions under which they will exercise their rights as citizens.

The exact meaning of this law has been and continues to be debated. In particular, why say "have the quality of citizen" instead of "are citizens", and how would these rights be exercised?

The Lamine Guèye law: Replaced by the Constitution of 1958

The Constitution of 1946 created a new French Union to replace the French Empire that had existed before the war. The Constitution incorporated the Lamine Guèye law word-for-word into Article 80.

However, in Article 81 a French Union citizenship was created, one that was distinct from the citizenship that existed before the war. However, it is not clear if this citizenship is distinct from the one in the Lamine Guèye law/Article 80 [2, pg. 56-58].

This ambiguity, among other issues, led to the demise of the French Union, to be replaced by the French Community defined in the new Constitution of 1958—the current constitution of France. As originally passed, Article 77 stated:

[...] Il n’existe qu’une citoyenneté de la Communauté. Tous les citoyens sont égaux en droit, quelles que soient leur origine, leur race et leur religion. Ils ont les mêmes devoirs.

My translation:

[...] There exists but one citizenship of the Community. All citizens are equal in the law, regardless of their origin, their race, and their religion. They have the same duties.

This Constitution replaced the earlier one, however, since the Lamine Guèye law was passed ahead of the Constitution of 1946, it is not automatic that it has been replaced as well. I've come up with three arguments as to why I believe it has in fact been replaced:

  • Article 80 of the Constitution of 1946 copied the Lamine Guèye law word-for-word and thus incorporated it. As such, the law was replaced when the Constitution was.

  • The Constitution of 1958 redefines citizenship and thus supersedes the Lamine Guèye law

  • If the Lamine Guèye law and Article 81 of the Constitution of 1946 refer to the same Union citizenship, then the new Community citizenship defined by the Constitution of 1958 replaced that citizenship and thus also the Lamine Guèye law.

Note that the French Community itself was not successful and has since been amended out of the constitution.

A note on the former colonies

If I'm correct that the law was replaced by the Constitution of 1958, then most colonies would not have had to take any action to annul it as they gained independence after 1958. The only exception I'm aware of is Guinea, which voted against joining the French Community [1, pg. 22].


Outside of Wikipédia français, I found the following two sources to be the most informative on the topic and cite them in this answer:

  1. Cooper, Frederick. "Alternatives to Empire: France and Africa after World War II." The State of Sovereignty: Territories, Laws, Populations (2009): 94-123. (PDF link)
  2. Teska, Wallace. "The Citizens of 1946: Lamine Guèye, Marius Moutet, and French Colonial Reform on the Road to Decolonization." (2016). (PDF link)
  • Notably, French overseas departments have a political status essentially the same as if it were located in France, for example, electing representatives to Parliament, a much more liberal stance than the way that most colonial powers treated their colonies.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 15, 2016 at 6:07
  • @ohwilleke This is true, though unfortunately, most territories/colonies were not granted département status. This includes all of French West Africa outside of Algeria.
    – DPenner1
    Nov 15, 2016 at 23:46
  • Are there any countries that grant any of their territories/colonies the equivalent of departement status? I can't think of any off hand, but I don't know everything. The best is the enemy of the good.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 16, 2016 at 1:10
  • @ohwilleke My favorite example is Portugal. In the early 1800s the Portuguese royal court fled to Brazil during the Napoleonic wars. In 1815, Brazil was officially elevated to equal status with Portugal (and nominally only, so was the Algarves). The amazing thing is though the capital of the united kingdom was Rio de Janeiro, not Lisbon. However Portuguese politics changed quite shortly after, and Brazil went on to declare independence in 1822.
    – DPenner1
    Nov 16, 2016 at 1:36
  • As for currently existing examples, the only similar one I can think of is the U.S. Afterall, there's the 48 contiguous states, then Hawaii and Alaska.
    – DPenner1
    Nov 16, 2016 at 1:51

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