Mulamula speaks out on dual citizenship

Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation minister Liberata Mulamula responds to questions by Mwaanchi Communications Limited editors at Tabata Relini Offices in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | LOVENESS BERNARD

What you need to know:

  • The government is formalising a way to legally acknowledge persons who were born in Tanzania, but are now citizens of other countries, according to Foreign Affairs minister Liberata Mulamula

Dar es Salaam. The question of dual citizenship remains a thorny subject in Tanzania, with the official stand remaining that it is not allowed in the country.

During an exclusive interview with Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) yesterday, Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation minister Liberata Mulamula shed further light saying she was hopeful that by the end of 2021 the matter would take a new turn.

She said the government was formalizing a way to legally recognise persons born in Tanzania, who are now citizens of another country.

Ms Mulamula said her ministry was currently preparing a strategic policy for acknowledging such persons, aiming for it to be law and they had requested Parliament to endorse it.

“Earlier it was perceived that the issue of dual citizenship was a matter best tackled in the constitution but later it was identified as a legal issue with countries like Ethiopia and India having embraced in their legislations and not constitutionally because it entails a long process and could also face challenges when a new Head of State is not in favour of it,” she said.

In view of that, she said, it was agreed that the best option would be to enact a law that would also protect citizens with dual citizenship.

Further expounding, Mulamula said her ministry was currently going through the foreign policy with the aim of coming up with a special programme on special identification that will recognize Tanzanians in the diaspora.

“I have always maintained that you cannot change someone’s place of birth, the important thing is to find a procedure that will ensure the birthrights of citizens living overseas are recognized,” she said.

According to her, a majority of Tanzanians living abroad did not go as refugees or for political asylum but they had gone to better their lives through various fields including business, investment.

An electrical engineer who has since become a US citizen, Mr Ben Kazora, said he lost a number of rights in Tanzania after he renounced his citizenship.

“I had to change my citizenship because I was facing some limitations that forced me to make the tough decision,” he said.

While taking an example of East Africa as a region, he said neighbouring Kenya has allowed dual citizenship, making it easy for someone to travel in and out of the country.

“If my parents who are in Tanzania fall sick for over 90 days and I have to take care of them, I won’t be allowed to stay in the country for over that period, I’ll first need to go out and then apply for a fresh entry,” he said.

However, following the positive development as relayed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Kazora expressed his optimism for better days ahead.

Asked on whether Tanzania was planning to let those in the diaspora vote during the elections, Ms Mulamula said the National Electoral Commission (NEC) was in a better position to comb through the intricacies involved and find a way forward.

“Countries like the US that have approved this do it through the use of technology, you cannot transport ballot papers all the way to the US or other foreign soils without raising red flags of possible rigging,” she said.

Meanwhile, on the issue of where Tanzania stands in its affiliation with the Arusha-based African Court on Peoples and Human Rights, Ms Mulamula said that as a country Tanzania decided to withdraw after the mode that was initially agreed upon through the African Union changed.

“It was initially agreed that cases filed against a country will first go through local courts of that country before reaching the African Court. However, individuals and organizations started filing cases directly to the African Court, thereby infringing upon the agreed mode of operation,” the Foreign Affairs minister explained.

However, she noted that Lady Justice Imani Aboud, who is now the President of the African Court on Peoples and Human Rights, and also a Tanzanian, was well placed to solve the challenge that has been highlighted since she lived through it in her previous tenure. The minister also listed other countries that had opted out of the African Court for similar reasons to include: Rwanda, Zambia among others.

On the question of economic diplomacy, the minister said Tanzania was making every effort through various fronts, including its foreign missions, to ensure that they attracted more foreign investors, preferably foreign direct investments (FDI).

However, she noted that if the country’s policies were not stable it lost trustworthiness which was vital for any investment especially since investors wanted to be assured that all would be well.

Ms Mulamula further explained that economic diplomacy touched on a number of issues including strengthening business and investments as well as tourist attractions notwithstanding culture and traditions that also include use of language.

On promoting Tanzania’s culture, especially Kiswahili language, Ms Mulamula said that major steps had been made to ensure the language penetrated even further in other countries.

“Kiswahili is used by at least 500 million people in East Africa. French and Portuguese were adopted in French speaking and Anglophone countries, so we decided that Kiswahili should also be accorded such recognition,” she said.

She said her Ministry entered an agreement with the Institute of Indigenous Languages in Durban and the ambassador pushed for Kiswahili to be among languages approved in South Africa where currently it’s being taught in schools and universities.

Explaining, she said preparations were underway for all embassy buildings to be used as centres for promoting Tanzanian culture, which includes teaching Kiswahili as well as staging other exhibitions.

Responding to a question on how Zanzibar could benefit more in economic affairs as part of the United Republic, Ms Mulamula pointed out that Zanzibar’s strength was in the blue economy--fishing, tourism investment--and has a blueprint on how it would sustainably develop it. She said working together with the Mainland, strategies were being implemented to ensure those in the Isles benefit economically.