24 December 2012

Zambia: Dual Citizenship Debate Rages On

EVER wondered how it feels to be in a foreign country? Of course, depending on what you are there for, the feeling can be exhilarating.

New people, new buildings, new challenges and new everything but as they say, there is no place like home.

EVER wondered how it feels to be in a foreign country? Of course, depending on what you are there for, the feeling can be exhilarating.

New people, new buildings, new challenges and new everything but as they say, there is no place like home.

Namaleya Mudaala, (not her real name) is a 24-year-old Zambian lady who lives in London.

She left Zambia for London, with her parents at the age of five (5).

Her parents got good jobs in London but since the law does not provide for dual citizenship in Zambia, they were forced to renounce their Zambian citizenship.

Namaleya's parents died about two years ago but she remained in London where she also has a good job. Despite still being a Zambian herself, Namaleya barely knows any one in Zambia as she left when she was five.

Neither does she want to give up her Zambian roots nor to leave the job and the comfort she is enjoying in London to reclaim her roots.

Her only option is to either renounce her Zambian citizenship to become British or to give up all that she has in London and return to Zambia where she barely knows where to start from.

This scenario is the order of the day for millions of Zambians living in the diaspora today.

Happy as they might be as a result of the many good jobs they might have and businesses they might be doing in the foreign countries where they live, the fact remains that home is where the heart is.

Many of these Zambians are torn apart as to what the correct thing to do is.

For some, who have refused to renounce their citizenship, they are forced to leave their good jobs in the diaspora to return home and be reduced to beggars in Zambia.

A recent case in test on the issue of dual citizenship is that of newly appointed Zambia Railways Limited Chief Executive Officer Professor Clive Chirwa, who recently admitted to having dual nationality, which was against the Zambian Law.

Prof Chirwa, who is a holder of both the British and Zambian nationality, has no choice but to relinquish his British citizenship to come and work in Zambia.

In a recent interview with the Muvi TV Assignment Programme, Prof Chirwa said dropping one citizenship (British) was one of the many personal sacrifices he had to give up in order to develop Zambia.

Like Prof Chirwa, there are many Zambians out there who are torn between choosing their good jobs and hefty salaries and coming back home to be jobless because Zambia does not allow for dual citizenship.

The current first Draft Constitution of Zambia is bringing hope to most of these hopeless Zambians living in the diaspora by introducing dual citizenship.

By definition, dual citizenship is a form of citizenship status in which someone is a citizen of two nations. In some instances, a person may hold multiple citizenship, that is he or she is a citizen of more than two countries.

Zambia, like many other countries, currently does not permit dual citizenship, but with the coming of a new Constitution, there is hope for Zambians in the diaspora and those who are yet to go.

According to Article 18, (1) in the draft Constitution,"A Citizen shall not lose citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country".

With the winding up of the District Consultative Constitution Fora that were held throughout Zambia, some districts supported the issue of dual citizenship while others rejected it.

According to the report on its resolutions, the Lukulu District Consultative Forum, for example, supported the dual citizenship clause but stated that an aspiring presidential candidate should not hold dual nationality.

The rationale is that no Zambian citizen should be restricted to single citizenship, since we are now living in a global village, except for the president due to the enormous authority that is placed on him by the people of Zambia to run their affairs and for fear of compromising security of the nation", the forum resolved.

Similarly, the Mongu District Consultative forum resolved to uphold dual citizenship.

The Mazabuka District Consultative Forum upheld dual citizenship amid arguments from individuals who were saying that dual Citizenship should not to be endorsed as a person should only bear allegiance to one country.

Some individuals at the Mazabuka District Forum stated that it was unsafe for a Zambian to acquire dual citizenship because it would compromise state security and give one undue advantage over those with single citizenship in terms of jobs.

The Mazabuka district forum however maintained that dual citizenship should be upheld as it allowed Zambians in the diaspora to participate freely economically, socially and politically in their country.

The Chavuma district forum upheld the dual citizenship clause amid arguments that a person with dual citizenship does not have allegiance to any country and could become an easy target to be used to work against his or her country.

The Ikelen'gi district forum agreed to have dual citizenship although there were arguments that it would encourage criminal activities for those with dual citizenships as they be able to take refuge in the second country after committing an offence.

The Ikelen'gi District Consultative Forum resolved that Zambians should be free to have dual Citizenship because when they go out of the country they reduce unemployment.

As for the Kabompo District Consultative Forum, it resolved that Article 18(1) on dual citizenship be upheld in the draft Constitution so that Zambians who are in the diaspora are not deprived of their Zambian citizenship and can return home if they want to.

Kasempa district also resolved to support dual citizenship saying, "As long as it is meant for Zambians only.

It will also allow Zambians outside the country to plough back to the economy of country,".

Similarly, the Zambezi District forum resolved to uphold the clause but stated that it should not apply to a Presidential candidate. The rationale was that it will help Zambians in the diaspora to continue with their identity and contribute to the economic development of the country.

And Prof Chirwa, in an interview with the

Zambian Economist said, the world has now shrunk into a global culture and economy.

He said that many countries were now endorsing dual citizenship. The results were colossal in terms of economic development.

He cited countries like Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil and Israel which he said were not facing any negative consequences due to dual citizenship.

"In my eyes, I see development, low poverty rate, collective riches, pure prosperity, technological advances, literate upbringing and above all excellent governance," he said.

"Dual Citizenship has helped many of the countries in the least developed countries to develop far more quickly than they would have done otherwise. Most advancements in the above countries are due to transfer of technology by its dual citizens working overseas and helping their motherland.

As a result thousands of jobs are created by the dual nationals," he said.

Prof Chirwa further cited Ghana saying that country had realised the economic benefits of dual citizenship through fostering trade and broadening investment opportunities.

In the last ten years Ghana has seen its skill and expert population increase tremendously due to dual citizenship.

Ghana's dual citizens have helped to develop roads, housing, building machineries, developing free medical care, utility facilities and other infrastructure.

One Zambian, living in the diaspora said, "For me, allowing dual nationality will be beneficial to many Zambians. I have many friends who, like me, have one British and one Zambian parent.

"I was born in Zambia and love the country. I support charitable programmes in Zambia, but to be honest what l give clearly does not change much at all," she said.

She explained that what she was capable of investing had the ability and potential to change many lives including hers.

"With the investment potential from Zambians living overseas, we cannot only create jobs for educated Zambians in Zambia who simply cannot find work but also for the less skilled worker.

Of course there are issues such as crime but surely with economic growth and investment more taxes will be collected, to fund better policing, better health care, better transport, better education. I will be one of the first to apply for my citizenship and cannot wait," she said.

The debate on dual citizenship, and many other clauses in the first draft Constitution still rages but one thing that is sure is that the investment of many Zambians living in the diaspora, if allowed to hold dual citizenship, will trickle down to the people who need it most.

The country will greatly benefit from the views and ideas of those who have travelled the world and lived it.

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