THINKING ALOUD: Tanzania’s status of the law on dual citizenship

Thursday February 22 2018



Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

By Prof Zulfiqarali Premji

It was very good and welcoming news, early February 2018 when President John Magufuli launched the e-passport.

The Department of Immigration should be congratulated and I give credit for this initiative. The e-passport will tremendously improve security and misuse with evil intention of this important document.

Another long-standing issue within the department that needs to be resolved is about dual citizenship. There is a need to close this matter. When you are outside the country there is a tendency to informally meet with your fellow Tanzanians and East Africans. In most of these gathering the Kenyans always ask us why Tanzanians are not granted dual citizenship, and we have no substantive answer. The Tanzanian Diaspora in America is huge and there is a lot of potential of development but I think it becomes very difficult psychologically to invest in your birth country as a foreigner.

The issue of dual citizenship has been thoroughly researched thus enacting a law on dual citizenship is accompanied by evidence from the study done since 2004.

The Law Reform Commission undertook an in-depth study and it is almost 10 years since the report and recommendations were submitted to the government. The big question is: are the ten years which have elapsed since the government received the Law Commission recommendations on this matter, not enough time for that purpose?

This comprehensive study was undertaken because the World Commission on the Social dimension of Globalisation recommended that dual citizenship by countries of the South, as one of the ways through which the nations of the South could equitably share the benefits of globalization.

The Law reform commissions recommended that dual citizenship should be accorded only to Tanzanians who are citizens by birth, and not to those citizens belonging to other categories.

They contended that most Tanzanian citizens who acquired foreign citizenship did so primarily because it was necessitated by the need to improve their economic well being by working in the relevant foreign countries, while their allegiance to Tanzania remained intact. This trend of Tanzanians to go to foreign countries will continue and whenever our youths are given such opportunity they will relocate.

Perhaps till today the report has not been discussed in Parliament. The annual meeting of members of the Tanzania Diaspora, which was being held in Zanzibar in 2016 this issue was raised but till to date there is no outcome.

Today, globalisation has given rise to a significant increase in the Diaspora. Dual citizenship does not mean having conflicting loyalties or does not reflects any less patriotism. Dual citizenship is now less about excluding foreigners and more about including your own people who now live abroad and are part of the highly skilled international workforce.

Some 24 countries in Africa now have allowed dual citizenship including our neighbour Kenya.

In the wave of independence in Africa, many African countries decided not to allow dual citizenship. The primary reason for this was because the newly independent African nations wanted to ensure loyalty to their countries as part of a nation building activity. They also wanted to control the demographic composition of their countries.

Post independence laws were passed to targeted those within the country that were not of “African” origin. Many of these laws, which specified “race”, gender or ethnicity as a qualifier for citizenship were also discriminatory and have become out dated. There is a fear that dual citizenship will amount to increased immigration of outsiders, high crime rates, less employment opportunities for their citizens, and a general socio-cultural imbalance in the society hence the hesitancy.

On the other hand, countries that promotes dual citizenship feel it increases the competency level of their citizens, opens the doors for free and liberal trade, thereby increasing job opportunities and helping the country to make a global impact.

The government perhaps lacks the political will and is dragging its feet but it is undeniable that many countries in Africa and many successful countries, especially the liberalized economies have agreed to dual citizenship. Its time the Tanzanian Diaspora is seen as equal partners in the development of this country and should be given an opportunity. Individual or personal rigidity and obstinacy should not be entertained and the interest of the country should come first.