Neo Simutanyi presents the most forceful case yet for including dual citizenship in the Zambian constitution :
A few weeks ago, the Citizenship Committee of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) unanimously resolved to recommend to include dual citizenship in the Zambian constitution. The resolution provoked mixed reactions from the Zambian public.
Some prominent Zambians, such as former republican vice-president Christon Tembo and chief immigration officer Ndiyoyi Mutiti opposed the recommendation on grounds of national security. For Christon Tembo, dual citizenship would compromise national security as those involved may have problems of conflicting allegiances, while Ndiyoyi Mutiti argued that dual citizenship will increase crime as criminals will easily run away to another country for safety.
Proponents of dual citizenship, who include former chief justice Mathew Ngulube, argue that it is desirable given globalisation, the increase in cross-national marriages and the inevitable migration to other countries in search of better economic opportunities. There are also those who argue that there are many Zambians who have had to give up their citizenship of the country of birth for economic reasons and which becomes a disincentive for them to invest and have closer links with their home country.
Further, the children born of Zambian parents abroad who automatically acquire citizenship by birth tend to lose out the benefits of belonging to the country of their parents. There is also the difficult choice of having to choose between the nationality of one of the parents in the case of having parents with two different nationalities.
To be sure, dual citizenship presupposes the possession of two citizenships at the same time. Today, the combination of certain citizenship laws automatically allows certain individuals to acquire two nationalities at the same time.
Dual citizenship is a growing phenomenon in today's increasingly global community. While many countries have historically been opposed to dual citizenship status, dual citizenship has grown more common in the last thirty years. One of the main reasons for this proliferation is that new technologies have helped to dramatically increase travel, communication, and international commerce.
The opposition to the notion of dual citizenship is informed by a less appreciation of the African and Zambian reality. It should be recognised that largely many Africans and even Zambians tend to have multiple identities.
They belong to particular tribes/ethnic groups, are members of particular districts and provinces and citizens of a particular country. In cases of cross-ethnic and cross- national marriages, children will tend to have dual identities, of their parents. For example, children from a Lunda and Tonga parents cannot be expected to choose between the identity of one of their parents.
They belong to both and often have rights of residence and enjoy all rights of belonging to that social group. They enjoy rights of citizenship from both their father and mothers side. But this is not the case with children born of parents of different nationalities. The child is made to choose the nationality of one of the parents, as the Zambian constitution does not encourage dual citizenship.
The current dual citizenship debate in Zambia should be understood within the context of global trends. It should be recognised that in the last fourty years, Zambia has been home to tens of thousands of people from other countries who have come here to work, by virtue of marriage or due to social ties with Zambian nationals.
Some of these people have lived in Zambia for most of their lives, but do not want to cut links with their home country. Thus they have remained established residents without citizenship rights. It would be wrong to doubt the patriotism of these men and women, who have made many contributions to the life and economy of this country.
There have been many non-Zambians who have made a tremendous contribution to this country in different ways. I do not agree with the argument that dual citizenship necessarily poses a national security problem. If anything, it will only help enhance a sense of belonging on those of our compatriots who have had to make the difficult choice of renouncing the citizenship of their country of birth.
The decision by the Citizenship Committee of the NCC is most progressive and deserves our support. It reflects global trends encouraging dual citizenship for economic, social and cultural reasons. I am particularly opposed to a decision to strip a Zambian of his/her citizenship simply because of having acquired the nationality of another country.
In my view citizenship rights should be non-negotiable and should be revoked under very exceptional circumstances. This is because one’s nationality forms their primary identity and as such, they should continue to hold it, irrespective of their decision to acquire the citizenship of another country for economic or social reasons.
There are at least 40 countries in the world that recognise dual citizenship and nine of them are in Africa. These include, the Australia, India, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, South Africa, Burundi, Mali. There are discussions in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda on dual citizenship.
It is now recognised that allowing dual citizenship encourages foreign investment as foreigners are assured of enjoying citizenship rights, while not losing identity of their countries of origin. In some countries, one can be granted citizenship if they come with investment of a certain amount. The success of Australia, Canada and the United States is partly because of the policy of encouraging dual citizenship and flexible nationality laws.
There is no doubt that nationals in the diaspora who could have acquired the citizenship of the host country for convenience can also identify more closely with their home country if they do not have to lose their original citizenship. There is evidence that points to the fact that the Philipines and India, among others, have more than a million of their nationals working and living abroad, who transfer millions of dollars to support their families back home and undertake investments. In my view, dual citizenship provides an incentive to identify more closely with the home country.
In the case of Zambia, it should be recognised that tens of thousands of our nationals have fled the country for many reasons, which include fear of political persecution, marriage or to seek economic opportunities or a combination of these. It is important that we ascertain the number of Zambians who have left the country in the last twenty years and are living abroad and how many of them have had to renounce their citizenship. Further, it is important to establish the extent of remittances from Zambians living abroad.
Politicians have continued to call on Zambians living abroad to return and make a contribution to the Zambian economy. But the problem that has not been addressed is that most of these may have acquired the citizenship of their host countries and may have forfeited their Zambian citizenship rights. I hope the plenary of the NCC will adopt the proposal to introduce dual citizenship in our constitution. We need a constitution which is inclusive and stripping our nationals of their citizenship should not be entertained.
Further, we should also encourage other nationals to feel welcome in our country by granting them dual citizenship so that they can develop a sense of belonging.
There is simply no evidence to suggest that dual citizenship poses a danger to national security nor increases crime. If this was the case, large and highly developed countries, such as Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States would not be promoting such a policy. As a Pan-Africanist who believes in an African identity, I believe that the encouragement of dual citizenship is a progressive idea which will provide the building blocks to the transition to a common African citizenship.
Those opposed to dual citizenship may have difficulties accepting the notion of African citizenship. But they should be reminded that the African Union is moving towards political union, which will include not only the removal of visa restrictions, but the creation of a United States of Africa with a common African passport.
We need citizenship and nationality laws that are more inclusive and take account of Zambia’s historical, social and cultural heritage on one hand and the dynamics of globalisation on the other hand. Dual citizenship should be an unobjectionable and unstoppable phenomenon given our multiple identities and we should reflect that in our national law.