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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Debating Dual Citizenship in Tanzania's Diaspora

Second Class Citizens and Dual Citizenship Privileges
A recent chat with people of Tanzanian descent in Britain still haunts me. It was a heated, albeit enlightening, debate on dual citizenship. When shall Tanzania grant us this privilege, they asked!

Of course they didn’t directly use that term ‘privilege.’ In fact they derided it every time I mentioned it. To them dual citizenship was a question of human rights, not class privileges.

They were so disappointed that one of them, a fellow youth who has witnessed, firsthand, their plights as second class citizens in Euro-America, writes against dual citizenship. ‘We thought it’s only old Nyerereist folks who speaks against it’, a couple of British passport holders exclaimed!

In unison they even asked me to reconsider my stance and pen a supporting article. ‘They listen to the media’, they asserted. By ‘they’ they meant Tanzanian politicians and policymakers. I couldn’t make any promise as I don’t get dictated, at least directly, to write for the sake of others.

Yet their counterarguments, as well as those of earlier critics, have forced me to rethink my query on Does Tanzania need Dual Citizenship? Therein I argued that the quest for this duality is primarily driven by a minority – the educated elite – who want more privileges. They had relatively enjoyed human rights associated with a liberal conception of citizenship in Tanzania.

In response to my article, a Tanzanian, then studying abroad, wrote: “Asking ‘why grant dual citizenship to a minority while you cannot even fully grant single citizenship to the majority' is analogous to asking 'why build more universities while you cannot adequately provide secondary school education for the majority'?” Yes, indeed, why deny a minority because of the majority?

This question crept in my chat with those in what is now called the Tanzanian Diaspora. To their credit they frankly admitted that their call for dual citizenship is not mainly about the majority of Tanzanians who can hardly access privileges of single citizenship which, ironically, include the freedom of movement to anywhere. It is first and foremost about accessing privileges in Euro-America. Then, and then only, can they start talking about helping Tanzania through remittances.

I was particularly touched by personal anecdotes that inform their quest. Your boss decides to hold a staff meeting with a partner office in another European country. All staffs have passports authorizing them to cross to any country in the European Union. Except you! Gosh, so, you must apply for a VISA! It takes some time! But your office needs to buy cheap tickets! Online! Now! Yes, they want you to confirm your eligibility, now! Ah, your single citizenship is their liability!

No wonder our kith and kin in the Tanzanian Diaspora want the privileges accorded to Euro-Americans. So, as they put it, they can be able to compete globally. They don’t want to be the main character of Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen abroad. After all most of them, as I always insist regardless of lack of sufficient statistics to prove it, were not second class citizens at ‘home’. Their want is for Tanzania to level the global playground for them, through passports.

They want to be ‘citizens of the world’, don’t they? Why should they pay us USD 20 when they come back home to Tanzania? Aren’t they Tanzanians – at least in their minds and hearts – who are returning to their native land, not only for holidaying, but also to make an end to poverty through remittances and investments? Won’t the country benefit by privileging, nay, over-privileging its sons and daughters of the soil living abroad? By citizen duality, nay, multiplicity?

The problem with privileges, as the author of White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, Peggy McIntosh, reveals, is that the privileged tend to take them for granted – as a given. It is as if they think, albeit unaware, that everyone simply gets them every day just like them. Why? Because privileges can be a blind spot to those who are so used to them to the extent that they can ignore or opt to forget that others find it so difficult, if not impossible, to get them.

Not every Tanzanian gets a passport let alone goes abroad. It is the privilege of a few. Many don’t even have any form of identity card. It is not surprising then that my preliminary survey, while queuing to register for the forthcoming elections, revealed that many of those who daily withstood the rays of the Dar es Salaam sun did so to simply have a card that identifies them.

For sure Tanzania, like any other country, must take care of its citizens wherever they are. In this regard I completely agree with my compatriots’ call for the government to care for them while they are out there. This, I contend, can only be possible if we join hands in ensuring privileges of citizenship are also extended to all Tanzanians. After all each one of us ‘is’ because we ‘are’.

So, let us broaden the scope of single citizenship so as to cater for people of Tanzanian descent wherever they may be. But by descent I don’t mean race or ethnicity. I simply mean nationality.
© Chambi Chachage
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Apollo Temu's Response

Chambi - great article.

Sadly I missed the discussion you attended and I would have loved and honour the privilege to share the platform during such an important discussion.

My last visit to Tanzania exposed me to huge challenges that we as citizens - as a young evolving nation - have! The challenges we face, they don't only pose a threat of taking us back to the dark ages, but they may significantly determine our position and place in the 21st Century. People are so scared with the pending East African Federation, for example, yet few hardworkers are keen to embrace the challenge; still many are scared and use all sorts of divisive arguments to maintain the status quo.

Yes, there are challenges and yes in many places we as people need a kick in the back to get things moving at the anticipated pace. I was talking to some of my friends recently and remarked that I saw many examples of this as opposed to the real thing in Tanzania. There are many reasons to explain or justify why things are as they are, but the bottom line is, we need all sorts of challenges and a change in mindset to make real changes in Tanzania. This calls for many things and opening up is one of them. The fears comes in various disguises, but they are only fears and worse enough, we are barking up the wrong trees!

While the powerful nations and individuals alike - purely for survival reason at society or individual or family level - quite rightly in my view - are busy forging unity using all possible strategies and tools available, some of our own people, knowingly or unknowingly, are busy looking for differences amongst us based on various perceived classifications, wanting to making us to believe and see how different we are. Be warned! Don't give in into that trend.

While some are busy working hard and trying to be creative in creating and facilitating wealth creation, some are busy sitting on the fence supposedly in defence of the weakest, portraying wealth creation as a beast. The very same, the supposedly defenders of many, will be milking the status quo non working system.

Most of the great initiatives in the world today were never started and run by a huge number of people. Using numbers only to justify any argument is allowing the real argument not to necessarily get the desired focus as an issue can quickly be dismissed as lacking support, as if support was and or is the only determinant factor. I don't need people to vote for my identity nor for my offsprings. That is almost like an insult to an individual. Citizenship is part of one, and it is ones' right.

Fewer people are the ones who will always help to make a change, it does not matter which side of argument one is on. Those sitting on the argument of saying they represent many - so they may be, but the mere fact of being on that side does not mean all in that many group do support what the person is doing on their behalf. The truth is the same even when sitting on the side of the fewer.

In any nation, you will always have one President at a time. You may have a few thousands thinking they could also become presidents. It does not mean those wishing to become presidents and the sitting President are any more citizens than the citizens. They are all citizens. A sitting President can catalyse, or otherwise, the developments, so can those wishing or thinking to become presidents and so can those who don't want to be anywhere near the presidency!

We are all children of Tanzania. In fact, with our current generation the statement can never be increasingly true. You may recall, our fathers and mothers were at some point the children of Colonial Administrative Tanganyika.

Therefore, to borrow Chambi's last statement, I will reword it and say:

So, let us broaden the scope of Tanzanian Citizenship so as to cater for people of Tanzanian descent wherever they may be. But by descent I don't mean race or ethnicity. I simply mean nationality.

Let us stop dividing our own families and our own people for any disguised intents - not for investments or money or patriotism.

In the true sense of the word LOVE to your children and family, is my or your Tanzanian child born in Scotland any lesser Tanzanian than my or your Tanzanian child born in Dodoma?

Unity always breeds strength. Divisions always breeds weakness. Lets forge unity in all we do, how we think, in deeds and in our words, and strength is our reward as a people. With strength, our place in the 21st century is assured.

"For sure Tanzania, like any other country, must take care of its citizens wherever they are. "

Additionally, I do advocate for the citizen to think what they can do to their country and not the other way round.

We must change our mindset!
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Azaveli Lwaitama's Rejoinder

Der Chambi,

I dont get you....I too travel abroad and I meet people who are citizens of other countries and who have some sentimental attachment to Tanzania... maybe they were born here...maybe their parents were born here etc etc....But they don't make Tanzania's problems to be about dual citizenship for god's sake...then there are also individuals who are Tanzanian citizens and are studying or working abroad...they have their passports and are happy to be out there as long as it takes...they are discriminated against or treated as second class citizen...yeah? When Nkrumah and Nyerere were treated like that they chose to return home to organize a Pan-African citizenship where they will never again be treated as second class citizens in Babylon...

The Africans in the diaspora of today want to escape from building an African Citizenship of their own and disappear into some fanciful thing called dual citizenship eh??? Don't make Tanzania's main preoccupation to be dual citizenship for god's sake.... Our political leaders have to be serious...there are millions of Tanzanians struggling to make a living in Tanzania...please care about their problems...visit villagers in Babati and Kigoma more and listen to the problems of villages and poor town dwellers and you will learn to put things that worry most Tanzanians most into perspective eh???.... I am one of the old Nyerereists indeed....

The Fourth Phase Presidency has leaders who visit New York and London so often that they have lost track of what the problems of most Tanzanians are....Our leaders meet people in the diaspora and they now think the problems of a "Tanzanian" who live in Europe and America should be the problems we should give priority in legislation? If you allowed dual citizenship who is to know who will be the MPs, Presidents, PSs of Tanzania in the future and what would be their concerns and priorities...Visit Manzese, Buguruni; visit villages in Dodoma...and in Lindi vijijini etc...is dual citizenship a priority to people you meet there???....

What if George Bush and the likes decide to take up citizenship in Tanzania and you have allowed dual citizenship - do you mean you don't mind having a Tanzanian passport given to people like George Bush and George Soros even when they would not have denounced American citizenship???? The law right now says if you want Tanzanian citizenship denounce American citizenship....how will you bar people like these who are filthy rich and could take over and rule Tanzania using their wealth while still retaining their American citizenship?...

If you wish to give citizenship to all Africans and those who denounce all other citizenship affiliations other than to Africa then lets talk about a United states of Africa....But dual citizenship, meaning being ruled by a fellow who is a British citizen and a Tanzanian one...come on...dont you you think Africans are being taken for a ride yet again????? ...

I want to believe you are with me in my believing that the agenda of dual citizenship is an agenda of the African comprador petty bourgeoisie and not even of the patriotic/matriotic national bourgeoisie ....

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