Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dual citizenship

The law to allow Tanzanians to hold dual citizenship should finally be enacted by the end of the year, Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation minister Bernard Membe said yesterday.

Speaking in Dar e s Salaam at an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) meeting, Mr Membe said research conducted on the proposal had established that the new law would not harm the country.

"The government is regretting locking out Tanzanians overseas during the 49 years of our Independence, while some African countries have been granting dual citizenship to their people," Mr Membe said.

Tanzanians living abroad will receive the news with jubilation, as they have for many years campaigned for the introduction of such a law to enable them to belong to both their host countries and their motherland.

Many have complained that lack of such a law disadvantages them, as it denies them opportunities they could access if they were citizens of the countries where they work.

Yesterday, Mr Membe explained that the issue had taken many years to conclude because the ministry did not wish to "rush such a sensitive issue". He added: "We decided to conduct a thorough research before introducing this law, which deals with the basic rights of a person."

The research had enabled the government to establish that dual citizenship "is not bad, as some people were trying to depict it".

The minister went on: "On the contrary, there will more benefits for the country and the individuals, if we to adopt the law to enable our fellow Tanzanians living abroad to market our country as well."

During the research, it had been found that Tanzanian experts working abroad had been contributing immensely to their host countries. Therefore, he said, the enacting of the law would enable them to also assist their motherland without any hitch.

Mr Membe said the ministry had already started to move to tap the great economic potential of the Tanzanians overseas.

After receiving the report, the ministry established a special department to deal with the affairs of those in the Diaspora.

"Everything regarding how to deal with the Tanzanians living abroad is almost ready. We need to fully utilise their skills and wealth to push forward our development agenda," he said.

The Dual Citizenship Act, the minister added, would give those abroad the right to adopt the citizenship of their host countries while maintaining their Tanzanian nationality.

Under the current law, a Tanzanian who adopts the citizenship of another country is automatically stripped of his nationality.

Minister Membe said they had directed all the country's embassies and high commissions overseas to register all Tanzanians to enable the government to have full information and data on the nationals living abroad.

Speaking to reporters at the meeting, which brought together experts from various ministries, embassies and some Tanzanian experts working in the UK, Mr Daniel Mwasandube, a quantity surveyor based in Britain, said many Tanzanians had opted to leave the country in search of better lives.

He said most of them "are very patriotic but lack of supportive laws", such the one granting dual citizenship, has blocked them from serving their country better.

"Many Tanzanians cannot land high paying jobs abroad, though they have the qualifications, simply because employers look for people who hold the passports of those countries," he said.

In preparation for the introduction of dual citizenship, the Law Reform Commission was tasked to conduct a national study and gather the public's views.

In 2006, the commission recommended amendments to the relevant laws so that Tanzanians can also enjoy dual citizenship.

According to the 'Final Report on the Introduction of Dual Citizenship in Tanzania', the commission chaired by Judge Anthony Bahati, said the issue deserved "a positive and forwarding-looking consideration".

The commissioners said it was high time Tanzania adopted dual citizenship because in a globalised world, the country could not develop without interaction with other nations.

Dual citizenship, according to the commission, was desirable as it conferred benefits both to the country and nationals desiring to hold the citizenships of other countries.

"A person with dual citizenship has greater flexibility in his choice of where to live and/or work," reads part of the report.

But the members of the commission also recommended that national identity cards be issued first before adopting the system.

Once it becomes law, Tanzanians will no longer have to renounce their citizenship, and the same will apply to foreigners wishing to take up Tanzanian citizenship, if their countries of origin allow that.