Dual Citizenship in the Post-Federation Era

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Countries by their ideals of Multiple (Dual) citizenship. Granted Ungranted Data not available (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Africans have been migrating to neighboring countries and overseas in greater numbers than before. They have been taking up citizenship in countries other than the country of their birth. This new African Diasporas are now increasingly calling for Dual Citizenship. Dual Citizenship is a situation where an individual can be a citizen of two countries. The call for Dual Citizenship has been growing in Africa from the African voluntary Diaspora over the past few years. The unprecedented voluntary movement of African people within the continent and outside the continent is being facilitated by increased access to mass transportation due to globalization. The African Diasporas voices have not fallen on deaf ears. Currently, nearly half of the African nations offer Dual Citizenship for their Diasporas. The African Union has  now also  officially recognized the economic and social benefits of engaging the African Diasporas. The AU has gone as far as to recognize that the involuntary African Diaspora that left Africa in bondage (i.e. African-Americans, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Caribbeans etc) is the sixth region of the African Union’s organizational structure.  In the spirit of Pan Africanism, countries like Ghana have extended citizenship rights to the involuntary African that wish to repatriate to Ghana. In Southern Africa, the call for Dual Citizenship can be heard in the countries that formally comprised the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, namely, Nyasaland (Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

Map of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 1960s Malawi was at the forefront of dissolving the colonial Federation that brought modern day Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi as one nation under British colonial rule. Whilst the hatred for this federation existed in all three countries, the resistance to the federation was heard the loudest in Malawi. Malawi was not a settler colony so Malawians feared white settlers moving in to its borders. Malawians were also being used as a source of labor for Zimbabwe and Zambia and this led to the underdevelopment of Malawi. Most of the farms and industries in the federation were being formed outside of Malawi’s borders. Therefore Malawians were very opposed to the federation. It was little Malawi, a country one third the size of both Zambia and Zimbabwe, that was persistent  and successfully ended the forced federation by 1964. It is therefore very ironic that years later, due to globalization, the people of the same countries are all calling for Dual Citizenship. In Zambia, Dual Citizenship has already been tabled in parliament and the first draft of their constitution includes a provision for Dual Citizenship. In Zimbabwe, a constitutional overhaul was also supposed to usher in Dual Citizenship as an unalienable right. It appears that the provision has left aspects of Dual Citizenship open to subjectivity in the final draft of new constitution.  The draft constitution recognizes that Zimbabweans cannot lose citizenship by acquiring foreign citizenship but adds that  Dual Citizenship would be regulated by Acts of parliament. For the majority of Zimbabweans, it means that they can have Dual Citizenship. For Zimbabweans born outside of Zimbabwe though, it may be an area of concern depending on future acts of parliament.  Lastly, in Malawi, the call for Dual Citizenship is still in its exploratory phase for the government. No formal bill or constitutional amendment has been tabled to parliament although various organizations and individuals have promoted it in the past. The current call for Dual Citizenship there is being pushed forward by non-governmental advocacy groups. This includes the Campaign for Dual Citizenship, a transnational advocacy group based in the U.K. that has an online petition form and is also petitioning the government for Dual Citizenship. Half way across the globe, the Malawi Washington Association is also advocating for Dual Citizenship through the Movement for Dual Citizenship initiative.  The Malawian Diaspora hopes to have a  bill considered in parliament like in the case of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Dual Citizenship however is being promoted in all three nations, largely due to the persistence of their respective growing Diasporas.

Flag of the Federation of Rhodesia Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The concepts of citizenship and Dual Citizenship in particular, have become problematic for African nations under the nation-state system. Traditional African cultures in the region allowed for Dual Citizenship. During the pre-colonial era of kingdoms and chiefdoms traditional leaders had accepted Dual Citizenship. Belonging to a particular political unit was not as rigid as it was under the nation-state system that was introduced in the colonial era. As an example, if one was a Chewa through one parent, one would also be recognized as a Bemba through the Kingdom or Chiefdom of another parent. This means that multiple citizenship across groups were possible. The modern day movements toward Dual Citizenship for this region are therefore also rooted in pre-colonial African tradition. Relaxing of rigid citizenship laws for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe is therefore a step towards addressing the malaise of the colonial borders in the region. Although the idea of the federation itself was not bad with respects to promoting unification of nation-states, the federation itself was intended to serve the particular interests of the colonial government. It was also forced the new political units in Africa that consisted of disparate people to in to yet another forced political unit. Dual Citizenship however, will serve the interests of the governments and citizens of the three countries respectively. It will also bring together Africans in a voluntary manner. Dual Citizenship can therefore be considered as a viable alternative to persistent calls to redraw Africa’s borders altogether. It will help strengthen the region’s economic viability. For the modern day nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, fighting against unification is no longer relevant in a globalised world where regional blocs are being formed. Taking steps toward Dual Citizenship is in the region is a step in the right direction.

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