Dar es Salaam. A heated debate has occurred in the parliament on Tuesday over whether or not Tanzania should allow duo citizenship, with members of parliament exchanging emotionally-charged arguments over the issue that has been debated for a while in the country.
The debate followed the presentation in the parliament by Foreign Affairs Minister Stergomena Tax’s budget for the 2023/2024 financial year, where the fate of Tanzanians living outside the country emerged.
During her speech, Dr Tax informed the parliament that the government would give ‘special status’ to Tanzania’s diaspora, allowing them to enjoy various services and opportunities available in the country.
She said the arrangement, expected to come into force in the coming financial year, was designed in consultation with the diaspora, whose members shared their recommendations on how the arrangement could work best.
“The arrangement would allow Tanzanians living abroad to contribute to the country’s development but also benefit from the opportunities that the country offers,” Dr Tax told lawmakers.
The ‘special status’ arrangement is a substitute for duo citizenship that Tanzanians living outside the country have been demanding for quite some time now.
Specifically, the arrangement is designed for Tanzanian nationals who have acquired other countries’ citizenships.
Following Tax’s presentation of her ministry’s budget, MPs debated whether or not Tanzania should allow duo citizenship, with some MPs arguing that stripping people of their Tanzanian citizenship when acquiring foreign citizenship denies them their God-given right to be Tanzanians.
According to the Tanzania Citizenship Act of 1995, a person loses their citizenship when they acquire foreign citizenship. By extension, their spouses (if non-Tanzanian citizens), children, and grandchildren are also not eligible for Tanzanian citizenship.
Ubungo MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) Prof Kitila Mkumbo decried the arrangement as punitive for Tanzanians who go outside the country for greener pastures, calling for its repealing.
“Why would my decision to go and work in South Africa deny me my God-given right to be a Tanzanian?” Mkumbo, who once served as a cabinet minister, asked in the parliament. “Why do we allow our people to lose their citizenship just because they have decided to go and live abroad?”
But Faria Khamis Shomari, a Special Seat MP (CCM), wondered how duo citizenship would help Tanzanians living abroad, urging them to stick with the ‘special status’ arrangement, which she said gives them everything they want.
“It is too early for Tanzania to allow duo citizenship,” Ms Shomari said. “Let’s remain with the special status arrangement. It gives our people everything they want. Where is the problem? [Special status] allows them to be recognised along with their families. What else do you want?”
According to a 2020 survey by the Diaspora Council of Tanzanians in America (DICOTA), five rights and privileges are of priority for Tanzanians living abroad.
These are the right to inherit property, including land; the right to pass on inheritance to their heirs, including land; the right to adopt children from Tanzania; the right to travel to Tanzania without a visa; and the right to invest in Tanzania with equal privileges to Tanzanian citizens.
In her presentation in the parliament on Tuesday, however, Dr Tax was unclear as to which of these rights the soon-to-be-launched ‘special status’ arrangement would give Tanzanians in the diaspora.
Kilosa MP (CCM) Prof Palamaganda Kabudi urged people not to consider Tanzania a strange country by refusing to allow duo citizenship, pointing out that there is no consensus that the arrangement is perfect and without shortcomings.
“The issue of duo citizenship is emotive,” said former legal and constitutional affairs minister.
“But not all countries in the world allow duo citizenship,” he added. “In fact, my research reveals that only 49 per cent of all countries in the world allow duo citizenship, with the remaining 51 per cent not allowing it.”