Tanzania Under Pressure to Grant Ulimwengu Citizenship

Published: 25/Feb/2002
Source: The East African

PRESSURE GROUPS in Tanzania have initiated a campaign urging the government to reverse its decision to deny citizenship to the chairman of one of the country’s biggest media houses, Mr Jenerali Twaha Khalfan Ulimwengu.

A hundred and forty University of Dar es Salaam lecturers have signed a petition to the government.

They have also appealed for the support of other pressure groups worldwide to urge the government to grant citizenship to Mr Ulimwengu.

However,The EastAfrican was unable to contact Mr Ulimwengu for comment last week.

Mr Ulimwengu, of Rwandese parentage, is the chairman of Habari Corporation, publishers of Dimba, Rai, Mtanzania and The African newspapers. He was among four prominent figures in the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Tanzania government who were stripped of their Tanzania citizenship in February 2001, but were given a chance to apply for citizenship.

The other three were Mr Timothy Bandora (Rwandan parentage) a former Tanzania ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Anatoli Amani (Ugandan) who was Kagera regional CCM chairman, and Ms Maudline Castico (Zambian) who was a member of the National Executive Council of CCM and a staunch supporter of the former Zanzibar president, Dr Salmin Amour. The three were granted citizenship while Mr Ulimwengu’s application was denied without any reason being given.

Commenting the issue, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Seif Khatibu, said in a statement last week that Mr Ulimwengu was denied Tanzania citizenship because he did not “fulfil the laid down Tanzania sovereign laws and regulations” in seeking citizenship, and “not on political grounds at all.”

In an interview withThe EastAfrican, Mr Khatibu said the rejection of Mr Ulimwengu’s application had nothing to do with his criticism of the government or “anything personal.”

He said he was just one among 50 people whose citizenship applications had been rejected since 1998.

“Why are you treating the Ulimwengu issue as a special one? This is not a political issue; we have denied others like him and no publicity or complaints have been raised,” he said.

According to his earlier statement, the Minister for Home Affairs is not required by law to explain why he denies granting citizenship to anyone. This is according to the Citizenship Act 23 of 1995.

However, the CUF national chairman, Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, said such laws were bad and should be scrapped or amended and that the decision had left President Benjamin Mkapa and his government in unprecedented disgrace before the international community.

The Minister said that the argument that Mr Ulimwengu spent most of his life in Tanzania and held different government and political posts did not qualify him to receive citizenship.

A senior official in the Ministry of Home Affairs told The EastAfrican that, “The one who is claiming to have been aggrieved must prove to the public that he/she is a Tanzanian.”

According to the lecturers’ memorandum, distributed to different organisations and media houses, Mr Ulimwengu was born in Ngara district on April 4, 1948, and went to school in Kamachumu, Katoke and Nyakato in Kagera region.

Another statement signed on February 16 by the Dar es Salaam University Academic Staff Assembly said: “If a country becomes intolerant of criticism and dissent and allows its journalists and academicians to embrace a culture of sycophancy and spineless bootlicking, that country will soon lose its national bearing and gradually plunge into abyss of autocratic misrule.”

Themes: Loss and Deprivation of Nationality, Nationality of Politicians
Regions: Tanzania
Year: 2002