Tanzania: ‘Right to Citizenship Should Feature in New Constitution’

Published: 6/Jul/2013
Source: Tanzania Daily News

By Jaffar Mjasiri

UNLESS the right to citizenship is clearly defined in the country’s new Katiba, the changes that are being undertaken may not make difference to ordinary people, some Constitution experts based in East Africa have said.

Speaking at the consultative meeting on the Constitutional Review Process in Dar es Salaam oon Friday, most discussants expressed the need to have liberal laws, which are unconditional for those acquiring citizenship.

The system has also been phenomenal in reaching out to the public, to allow them comment on the Draft Constitution that was released recently. According to the Twitter desk set at the meeting the information about the meeting could reach over 17,000 accounts.

“Twitter was able to raise awareness on issues which have not received much attention in the public debates,” Elsie Eyakuze of The Mikocheni Report blog who was working on the Twitter desk said.

However, the Discussant on the right to citizenship and the new constitution topic, Mr Ibrahima Kani said that in countries like Senegal there are liberal system that not attached to any conditions when acquiring citizenship. “In this clause of the Draft constitution that we are discussing, the ideal condition is that when legislation and constitution are merged there should not be gaps,” he said.

Mr Kani who is African Union Advocacy Director, Open Society Institute of Kenya advised that the country’s new constitution should have all citizen provisions in sequence, and not scattered as it appears now in the draft.

Some participants also recommended that the dual citizenship should be in the constitution. The lawyers attending the meeting were very explicit about having all citizenship disputes settled through the judicial system.

A lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam Dr Khoti Kamanga said that the right of individual citizenship should be respected by the new constitution. “It should put in place the mechanism for obtaining a the legal papers either by birth or registration,” he added.

He also said that people who are excluded from the citizenship by the 1961 law did not bother to register for citizenship because under the then prevailing conditions of East Africa Community gesture most of them felt at home. Some participants argued that a number of people have been rendered stateless because of lack of mechanism to issue birth certificates and registration systems in the past.

Mr Bobby Mkangi, who is the former Member, Committee of Experts on the Constitution, Kenya said that the issue of management of fear should not be allowed to interfere with the objectivity of the constitution.

“We should not lose objective of having an effective constitution, because of unknown fears,” he said, referring to the seven years of probation before the spouse is granted citizenship due to fear that early granting of citizenship might precipitate a divorce.

With regard to Tanzanian women who marry foreigners, the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) Tanzania Programme Officer, Ms. Shamshad Rehmatullah said that there was a need for women’s husbands to be treated equally like men’s wives.

“When a Tanzanian woman marries a foreigner, the husband is not automatically entitled to citizenship like men’s wives,” she said, adding that it was high time that the new constitution addressed the matter. The meeting which attracted participants from Kenya, Uganda, and Southern Sudan, Zambia and Senegal was organized by OSIEA

Themes: Acquisition of nationality
Regions: Tanzania
Year: 2013