What Tanzania's position on dual citizenship means

Home  Affairs Minister, Hamad Masauni, responding to a question from a Special Seats MP, Agnesta Lambati who wanted to know why the government was not willing to allow dual citizenship. PHOTO | Merciful Munuo

What you need to know:

  • The government has on different occasions rejected dual citizenship, arguing that arrangement would create inequality and confusions among Tanzanians

Dar es Salaam. International relations experts feel Tanzania was blocking itself from utilising the potential of its diaspora as the government maintained its position to reject dual citizenship.

Yesterday, Home Affairs minister Hamad Masauni told the Parliament that the dual citizenship was not a plea of the majority Tanzanians.

Mr Masauni cited the results of public opinions gathered during the constitution review process which, according to him, showed majority of Tanzanians were not in favour of the cause.

“When this request becomes the plea of the majority, then the government would reconsider its position, but for now the government is in the final stages of preparing a special status for the diaspora,” he said.

The government has on different occasions argued that dual nationality would create inequality and confusion among Tanzanians.

The government also fears that the arrangement would undermine the national identity and sovereignty of the country.

Tanzania citizenship is governed by the Tanzania Citizenship Act, Chapter 357 (Revised Edition of 2002) and its Regulations of 1997.

According to the minister, the country’s citizenship status per the legal standings, will remain as stated in the Act, Citizenship by Birth, Citizenship by Descent, and Citizenship by Naturalization.

This policy has been criticized by some Tanzanians living abroad, who argue that it is outdated, unfair, and detrimental to the country’s development.

They claim that dual citizenship would enable them to maintain their cultural and emotional ties with their homeland, as well as contribute to its economic and social progress through remittances, investments, skills transfer, tourism, and diplomacy.

A lecturer at the Center for Foreign Relations, Mr Innocent Shoo said the issue of dual nationality, being entrenched in the constitution, was difficult to alter, but allowing the system had many benefits.

He commended the government’s initiative to create a special status for the diaspora which he said was being done by many countries.

“Allowing dual citizenship has many benefits such as allowing diaspora to enjoy civil rights like owning a property, investing, and accessing important services,” he said.

Mr Shoo also said sending money home as a foreigner proves to be costly thus hindering remittance growth.

“...but as Tanzanians, the diaspora could be able to afford and send more money home,” he said.

The World Bank (WB) estimated remittances were at $53 billion in 2022 for the overall Sub-Saharan region.

These remittances are mainly due to strong flows to Nigeria and Kenya which has allowed dual citizenship.

Figures from the Central Bank of Kenya reveal that the country’s diaspora remittances reached $4.027 billion in 2022.

That is nearly four times the value of remittances to Tanzania in the period from January to December 2022 which stood at $1.1 billion, equivalent to Sh2. 5 trillion, according to the deputy minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Mr Mbarouk Nassor Mbarouk.

Another EAC member Uganda earned $1.1 billion in the 12 months to July 2022, according to data from the Bank of Uganda.

The dual Citizenship plea has also been raised several times in the past by various stakeholders, including civil society organizations, academics, and politicians.

In 2022 six members of the country’s Diaspora, listed as Shabani Fundi, Patrick Nyelesa Nhigula, Restuta Kalemera, Nkole Muya, Emmanuel Emmanuel and Bashir Kassam filed a constitutional petition number 18, 2022 at the High Court against the Attorney General.

The petition is challenging the ambiguity of the 1995 Citizenship Act section 7 (1), (2) (c), (4)(a) (6) which they claim are violating their constitutional rights, asking the court to declare that the articles are invalid and violate their Constitutional rights because they discriminate against their inalienable natural right which is citizenship by birth.

However, earlier this year the AG objected to the petition.

In 2007, then Foreign Minister, the late Bernard Membe presented a report which recommended an amendment to the citizenship law. But the government argued that such a change represented a threat to peace, security, and the Tanzanian population’s livelihood.