The Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe, has recently been quoted in the media as saying that the law to allow Tanzanian to hold Dual Citizenship should be enacted by the end of the year. In the wake of this turn of event we present an article that was written three years ago on the matter. The analysis therein is still relevant today.
In the just ended session of the Parliament, there were two questions asked. One related to dual citizenship, which has been in the air for some time now, and the Law Reform Commission apparently has worked on it and compiled a report. The other related to the debate on the formation of All Africa Government, which was discussed by the Heads of State at the last African Union (AU) Summit. Both these issues are very relevant and central to the question of African nationalism, political identity and the place of Africa in the world today. They are inseparably linked. Pan-Africanism and nationalism cannot be separated.
Yet, the issues have been hardly linked and virtually contradictory answers given to them. In his answer on dual citizenship, the Deputy Minister concerned answered that citizenship is a union matter and that there would be need of consultation between the two parts of the Union. That is true. In fact, dual citizenship raises some fundamental constitutional questions, which have not been raised, and discussed in the public debate. But today’s palaver is not concerned with that. Today’s palaver is interested in the rest of the answer of the minister.
The minister implied in his answer that ‘many’ Tanzanians are in favour of dual citizenship. Previously newspapers have reported that vocal Tanzanians, particularly those residing outside the country, have clamoured for dual citizenship. It seems that even people in authority are in favour of dual citizenship. Perhaps it is a matter of time before dual citizenship is legalised.
The question to ask is which Tanzanians want dual citizenship and how many are ‘many Tanzanians’ who want dual citizenship. It is clear, without taking a head count, that the ‘many’ Tanzanians in this case can only be members of the minute elite. It cannot be the majority Tanzanians, who live in their villages, and may have never travelled outside the country, perhaps not even to Dar es Salaam. Dual citizenship is squarely the demand of the elite. It matters little to the large majority of Tanzanians.
The next question is what does dual citizenship imply and who stands to benefit from it. At the time of their independence, many African countries maintained single citizenship. It was primarily a question of building nationalism and national loyalty. Immigrant minorities, for example, had to make up their minds where they belonged. Adopting the citizenship of their country of residence was seen as a test of their loyalty. Keeping two passports was not only a crime in law but attracted a moral and political stigma; it showed lack of loyalty to one’s country and nation.
Ironically, over forty years later, the whole debate on citizenship is conducted without reference to nationalism, African identity and political loyalty to the nation-state. Ironically, too, the issue of nationalism is not linked to the issue of pan-Africanism, which was so prominent in the nationalist debates of the 1950s and early 1960s. That brings me to the second question raised in Parliament.
In an answer to a question on Tanzania joining the African federation, the Deputy Minister concerned assured the House that there would be full consultation of the people as it was done on the proposal to fast track the East African federation. In the further elaboration of his answer, the minister seemed to repeat the position taken by Tanzania at the AU summit to form African federation step-by-step beginning with regional economic groupings and first resolve internal problems of poverty and conflicts.
In effect, the answers to the two questions demonstrate great readiness and enthusiasm for dual citizenship but lukewarm attitude and skepticism towards African citizenship.
At the time of independence, the first generation of African nationalists passionately discussed and believed in pan-Africanism. They realized that some fifty or so countries on their continent were an artificial creation of colonial powers. Nyerere said: ‘Since we were humiliated as Africans we had to be liberated as Africans.’ They affirmed their Africanness, rather than glorify their Ghanaian-ness or Tanganyikan-ness. They foresaw that as individual African states they would become pawns on the imperialist chessboard. That singly they would not be able to develop nor withstand the exploitative outside forces. Indeed, they would not even be able to defend their independence and freedom.
History, unfortunately, has proved them right. Forty years later Africa is more divided than ever before. Mother Africa is bleeding with civil strife while its resources are looted under the name of globalization. Africans are fighting Africans.
Mwalimu Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah were the two leading proponents of pan-Africanism. Both agreed on the goal, African unity, but they differed on how to achieve it. Nkrumah argued for political unity ‘now’ - Africa Must Unite, Nkrumah roared. Nyerere argued pragmatically for step-by-step approach. Whereas for Nkrumah political unity was the only way of achieving African unity, for Nyerere any type of unity was a step towards African unity. Mwalimu had logic and pragmatism behind him; Nkrumah had history and political economy to back him up.
Forty years later, we can say that history has proved Nkrumah right. At the fortieth independence anniversary of Ghana in 1997, Nyerere admitted that the first generation of nationalist leaders had failed to achieve African Unity and African elites/rulers had become surrogates of imperialism. Nyerere confessed that the project of building nation-states, that is nationalism based on each individual country, failed. In his own words:
I reject the glorification of the nation-state which we have inherited from colonialism, and the artificial nations we are trying to forge from that inheritance. We are all Africans trying very hard to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians. Fortunately for Africa we have not been completely successful.
Indeed, not only we have failed to become fully Tanzanians, but are gleefully giving up the effort as our elites wallow in the desire to become citizens of Europe and America to get petty privileges. It is the same Europe and America under the Sarkozys and Bushes of this world, which is building racist immigration walls
Consider for a moment the irony that Africans from Togo in Ivory Coast are hounded out sparking off a civil war because they are not Ivorians; Africans from Nigeria are turned back at African airports; Africans from Somalia are turned over to fascist forces at Kenyan borders because they are not Kenyans – in fact they are not Somalis either; they are “terrorists”! So while we fight and kill each other because of our artificial identities within colonial borders and ‘petty’ nationalisms, we embrace dual citizenship, making nonsense of both our African-ness and nationalism. Truly, as Mwalimu said, African nationalism outside pan-Africanism is anachronistic, it is tribalism on world scale. In his 1997 speech Mwalimu made a clarion call:
A new generation of self-respecting Africans should spit in the face of anybody who suggests that our continent should remain divided and fossilized in the shame of colonialism in order to satisfy the national pride of our former colonial masters.
Africa must unite! This was the title of one of Kwame Nkrumah’s books. That call is more urgent today than ever before. Together, we the peoples of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states. The needs of our separate countries can be, and are being, ignored by the rich and powerful. The result is that Africa is marginalized when international decisions affecting our vital interests are made.
Unity will not make us automatically rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated.
My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward.
Is the current leadership in Africa, including Mwalimu’s Tanzania, worthy of picking up the flickering torch of African freedom and African citizenship, engrossed as it is in a petty debate on dual citizenship to access petty privileges?
© Issa Shivji