Tanzania: Revisiting some important questions about citizenship
Source: The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)
By Abdullah Mwinyi
On November 4, 1985, at Diamond Jubilee Hall, Mwalimu Nyerere addressed Tanzanians for the last time as President of the United Republic. He had been at the helm for 24 years, first as President of Tanganyika and 18 months later, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania. One would expect that in his final address he would only touch upon what he considered most important. Those matters that he would wish to be remembered most – his legacy.
Proof of citizenship
There are three types of citizenship in Tanzania. Citizenship by birth, descent and registration or naturalisation. The third category is not contentious as it is recordable and there is a Certificate of Citizenship provided to a qualifying person. Citizenship by birth and descent is where the real challenge is and could be subject to abuse. The vast majority of the adult population of Tanzania have no birth certificates. Most persons born outside urban centres before the 1990s do not have birth certificates and hence difficult to prove they were born in Tanzania or one of their parents were born in Tanzania as the Citizenship Act stipulates. Further every citizen born in any border region in the country can have their citizenship or nationality questioned, all northern regions, western regions and southern regions. Our borders are porous, communities mingle, marry and settle easily across borders.
What is required is the understanding and spirit of Mwalimu on matters related to citizenship and all rights pertaining to citizenship. The burden of proof should be with the Immigration authorities to prove that any individual is not a citizen and if there is a clear absence of such proof, an individual should be declared a citizen. This reversal of current legislation is necessary to minimize abuse and harassment that are widespread and build public confidence that such cases are not politically motivated.
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