The Tanzania Citizenship  Act of 1995 and Its Contradictions with Dual Citizenship for the Diaspora


Per the Citizenship Act of 1995, persons who were citizens of either the Republic of Tanganyika or the People’s Republic of Zanzibar shall be deemed to have become citizens of the Republic of Tanzania effective from Union Day, April 26th of 1964. The 1995 Citizenship ACT does not allows dual citizenship. It does not allow women to pass their citizenship rights to their foreign born husbands and/or children from such marriages. The Act, however, sets forth requirements for citizenship and legal procedures for becoming a Tanzania citizen through naturalization. This article provide the historical anecdote that lead to Tanzania adopting a citizenship act that does not allow its citizens to carry multiple passports. It refutes the philosophical argument that dual citizenship is a threat to national security and identity. Furthermore, the article offers a counter argument for why Tanzania should provide dual citizenship for its diaspora. Such an act will benefit both the country and its citizens abroad.


The concept of citizenship in Tanzania is rooted within the perception of national security and identity (Dahlin & Hironaka, 2008). Dahlin and Hironaka (2008, p58) argues that strict citizenship laws based on ethno-cultural boundaries and restrictive nationalist identities are good for a young developing country. The Citizenship Act of 1995 took this philosophical position allegedly in defense of and to safeguard the country’s identity and security. The idea behind this philosophical thinking is that, dual nationality tends to corrupt the cultural identity of a country and thus, making national security difficult to secure.

Ten years prior to the 1995 Citizenship Act, the country (Tanzania) took bold and forward looking steps in introducing the 1984 Constitution Amendments in which some fundamental principles of human rights and/or rights of citizens were granted. The 1984 Constitutional Amendments was arguably the most forward looking Constitutional Amendment in Tanzania’s short history, as it allowed broad human rights provisions to its citizens.  The 1995 Citizenship Act, however, was a  step backward and came with more restrictive and discriminatory clauses that exclusively prohibited dual citizenship and the rights of women married to foreigners and the rights of all Tanzania by birth citizens living abroad.

James Sapali (2015, p56) argues that the 1995 Citizenship Act was motivated by a perceived threat to national identity and security based on the political, economic, and geographical context at the time. The mid-1980s and early 1990s, were the toughest times economically for Tanzania. Because of these realities, The Citizenship Act of 1995 was made to be more exclusive and discriminatory. It purported to protect the county’s perceived national identity and security threats presented by the changes in the demographics, political, and economical situations. Arguably, the Citizenship Act of 1995 was made purposely to target and exclude some individuals and particularly Asian-Tanzanians who were perceived as outsiders and/or foreigners who posed threat to the country’s economy, and thus, its identity and national security. In addition, the Act was made to be very discriminatory against women. In the 1995 Citizenship ACT women are not allowed to pass their citizenship rights to husbands of foreign origin and children born to those marriages. This was made explicitly so that to discourage people (male) from foreign country to marry Tanzanians and thus, acquiring citizenship rights through marriage. On the contrary, this patriarchal and male dominated Citizenship Act, allowed for male citizenship’s rights to be passed on to their foreign-born wives and their children.  In addition, the 1995 ACT strongly prohibits dual citizenship for a mere reason based on a perceived lack of loyalty from those gaining citizenships in foreign countries. No real or perceived threats have demonstrably been found to support this philosophical position.

Flaws in the National Security and Identity Argument

The premise that Tanzanians who acquire citizenships in other countries are threats to national security and national identity is flawed. First, most Tanzanian citizens and Tanzanian by birth have a stake in the development of Tanzania. This is evident by the tireless work they do to attract investment to Tanzania, to invest in Tanzania, and through many collaborative work and programs they engage in to develop the wellbeing of Tanzania and their fellow-citizens. Secondly, majority of Tanzanians and Tanzanian by birth who resides in foreign countries send huge amount of remittances each year back into the country. It is estimated that in the year 2015 alone, Tanzanians in the diaspora sent a total $750 millions to Tanzania (World Bank, 2015). This amount is larger than the amount of foreign currency the country received from its sales of cotton, coffee, tea, flowers, cloves, and sisal combined, in the same year (Zitto, Kabwe, Personal Communication). Yet, the $750 million remittance amount stated in the World Bank report is the lower threshold of the total remittance the country receives. Other, sources believe, Tanzania received an upward of $850 million in 2015 through remittances sent via Hawala. The $850 million figure is larger than what the country receives from the Millennium Corporate Challenge (MCC Funds). In 2013 MCC provided Tanzania with $698.1 million (Millennium Corporate Challenge, 2013). The discrepancy in remittance reporting is because the country lack a reliable method of tracking remittance entering the country from its diaspora.

These examples demonstrate the flaws in the thinking that provided the framework for the 1995 Citizenship Act. The thought that national security and identity cannot be properly secured, if, and when, a citizen of Tanzania acquires citizenship in a foreign land is not supported by facts. In addition, stripping women’s citizenship rights based on who they happen to marry is in violation of equal treatment rights. Foreign husbands and their children should be afforded the same rights as their male counterparts.

Furthermore, there are six countries in the East African Community. Three of the six countries in the East African Community allow dual citizenships for their citizens. Apparently, there has never been a national security threat nor national identity erosion in these three member states since they allowed dual citizenship. The claim that dual citizenship is a threat to national security and national identity is baseless and is an argument devoid of factual evidence. Currently, there are 71 countries worldwide that allows dual citizenship in some shape or form. The benefits of Dual Citizenship are self evident in countries such as Israel, Nigeria, India, Brazil, and China.

Nine Reasons for Dual Citizenship in Tanzania

Most of us advocate for dual citizenship because of our love for Tanzania, albeit poor and struggling. Most of us a driven by our patriotic duty to our country of origin. For the same reason, we write commentaries, participate in social media forums and other channels. We love Tanzania and want to see the nation progress from poverty to prosperity.

The adoption of the New Constitution may be justified for the following reasons:

First, dual citizens can receive the benefits and privileges offered by each country. For example, they have access to two social service systems, can vote in either country and may be able to run for office in either country (depending on each country’s laws). They are also allowed to work in either country without needing a work permit or visa and can attend school in either country at the citizen tuition rate (Jean Folger).

Why is this important to a Developing World countries like Tanzania?

Tanzania is still grappling with an undeveloped education system. For the most part its teachers are inadequately trained, the facilities are either dilapidated or not there, and generally, educational standards are below the standards of those of the developed nations, like Canada or the USA. It is not being at variance to argue that leaders trained and who actually lived in the developed educational background will have more to give in terms of leadership, value and ideas. They may also be able to live out what has worked abroad. Because they have the experience of living successfully in those nations.

Second, being trained abroad and living abroad are not the same things, therefore, only those who live abroad will have a sustained impact on the politics and economics of the poor nations. Take as an example a person who spends five years in college or university abroad. This person will perhaps be on a VISA or some sort of Study Permit has limited access to resources and in most cases, will have limited mobility. When this person returns home, other than what they learned through “osmosis,” they have nothing more than classroom experience of the developed countries thought. In short, though trained abroad, these “Western educated Africans” will still be African-minded in terms of policing and programming. It is not that African education is not adequate to develop Africa; it is a truism that most of what is in Africa is either imported from the developed countries or has their blessings. Talk of books, technology, leadership paradigms, even the sources of money used in Africa, these for the most part, come or have been borrowed from the rich countries. In recent past, Tanzanian politicians have gone and died abroad. It cannot be because Tanzania has no medical facilities; it is because Tanzanians know, implicitly or explicitly, that better medical facilities are still found abroad.

Third, and as an addendum to three above, “Foreign-educated leaders attract more FDI to their country. Our rationale is that education obtained abroad encompasses a whole slew of factors that can make a difference in FDI flows when this foreign-educated individual becomes a leader” (Constant and Tien, 2010). FDI or foreign direct investment is a much needed currency in Tanzania’s quest to wean itself from the aura of central government. However, and even more importantly, foreign companies and governments may trust those who got their education and business experience from abroad and even more those who lived and worked abroad. If a president is one who lived and worked abroad, you can imagine the level of trust in his/her government. It is also important to emphasize that citizens who have lived abroad may, comparatively, be less corrupt, less dictatorial, less autocratic, less dishonest, and more democratic and fair in their approach to governance. The reason is simple, because they lived and absorbed those values which most developed countries subscribe to.

Fourth, the idea of “Brain Earn” comes to light. Remember in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the concept of “brain drain” was rife on the political tongue! Now, the idea of brain drain is becoming obsolete and more so with increased global economic integration in place. Relocation or immigration does not drain brains anymore, it empowers brains. In other words, training or living in another country shapes your brain to infinite possibilities in terms of economic modelling, political idealization or social industry. A leader who has spent ten years squarely in Africa will be less industrious, less innovative, and less dexterous than another who lived or worked abroad, especially in the developed country! This is the same reason why developed governments appoint leaders who have lived in Africa to head undertakings whose mission involve Africa.

fifth, a dual citizen can own property in either country. This benefits both countries, but especially the poor country. The reason is simple, some countries restrict land ownership to citizens only and land or property is a genuine investment. Imagine more Tanzanians owning property, land and businesses abroad! Imagine what this will do to promoting the Tanzanian brands, connecting local businesses to the developed ones and generally putting Tanzania on the map as has been the case for Israel, Nigeria or India! And this is not new, major corporations from the developed countries do own lands and properties and businesses in Africa. They can relocate interests based on the viability of the enterprise or enabling economic environment in either country. This benefit is self-assertive.

Sixth, dual citizenship informs cultural education. “Having dual citizenship gives you the chance to educate others about the culture and people of two different countries. Governments may like dual citizenship because it helps to promote a country’s image and culture abroad. If you have two passports, you may have more access to the world” (Kate Bradley). Even more, it enhances tourism and promotes a healthy image abroad. Consider the Jews and the impact they have had in the USA, Canada, and UK! Consider the Nigerians, Jamaicans and to some extent, Indians! All these nationals have made their birth countries powerful abroad. In international parlance, that means economic boom and political propagation of their originating countries.

Seventh, dual citizenship entails easy of travel. If you are a dual citizen, you enjoy the protection of two governments even when you are traveling. If you encounter problems on the trip, you can appeal to one or both governments’ embassies. “When asked for identification during international travels, you can supply the passport that is least likely to raise eyebrows or cause problems among officials. You can also travel to both countries as a native citizen, avoiding the lengthy airport queues and questioning about your purposes” (Kate Bradley). This is self-explanatory.

Eighth, dual citizenship promotes increased security awareness. To a dual citizen, one country may be a homeland but the other is very much a new home. Immediately this will cause them to fully experience and embrace the ideals of both countries. Dual citizens will more likely than mono-citizens promote peace and order in both countries because of dual security interests in both. They will also be more sensitive to issues of war, terrorism and treason. This is the very opposite of the fears most people have of dual citizenship. Dual citizens, by design, are incapable of compromising the security secrets of both countries. They will likely defend both interests with equal strength. Their own safety depends on it.

Ninth, one question that cannot be avoided now is: Where is the world going? The world is trekking towards more integration, globalization, and outsourcing of important jobs and ideas. Rather than being individuals, nationals are tending to be more world citizens. The Internet is drawing all of us together; Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and various social media are drawing us towards one identity. Although no nation should sacrifice its sovereignty for integration, it is vital to understanding that socio-political dynamics are calling on us to unite more, cooperate more and share more equitably the world’s diminishing and scarce resources. In light of this, duality of citizenship will not be much to ask for. The only caveat under this clarion is that no-one nation should take advantage of another in economic and security terms. Done properly and lawfully, both countries stand to benefit from dual citizenship.


For Tanzania, the move to dual-nationality is a move in the right direction. President John Pombe Magufuli would be doing the best investment of his presidency for spearheading the process to  adopt the New Constitutional. The Tanzanian parliamentarians need to push for a revival of the New Constitution Bill. The issue of dual citizenship is not for the benefit of the Tanzania diaspora alone, it is for the benefit of the country. It is not Canada or the USA or wherever countries Tanzanian citizens resides which stands to benefit, it is Tanzania. Tanzania will not make economic, political or social progress unless one of its sons or daughters who has been educated, worked and lived abroad (especially in a developed country) is allowed to participate uninfringed politically, economically, and socially in the development of Tanzania.




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