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ON THE ‘NEW’ AFRICAN DIASPORA

 

By Chambi Chachage

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010.

 

A recent chat with people of Tanzanian descent in Britain still haunts me. It was a heated, albeit enlightening, debate on dual citizenship. When shall Tanzania grant us this privilege, they asked!

 

Of course they didn’t directly use that term ‘privilege.’ In fact they derided it every time I mentioned it. To them dual citizenship was a question of human rights, not class privileges.

 

They were so disappointed that one of them, a fellow youth who has witnessed, firsthand, their plights as second class citizens in Euro-America, writes against dual citizenship. ‘We thought it’s only old Nyerereist folks who speaks against it’, a couple of British passport holders exclaimed!

 

In unison they even asked me to reconsider my stance and pen a supporting article. ‘They listen to the media’, they asserted. By ‘they’ they meant Tanzanian politicians and policymakers. I couldn’t make any promise as I don’t get dictated, at least directly, to write for the sake of others.

 

Yet their counterarguments, as well as those of earlier critics, have forced me to rethink my query on Does Tanzania need Dual Citizenship? Therein I argued that the quest for this duality is primarily driven by a minority – the educated elite – who want more privileges. They had relatively enjoyed human rights associated with a liberal conception of citizenship in Tanzania.

 

In response to my article, a Tanzanian, then studying abroad, wrote: “Asking ‘why grant dual citizenship to a minority while you cannot even fully grant single citizenship to the majority' is analogous to asking 'why build more universities while you cannot adequately provide secondary school education for the majority'?” Yes, indeed, why deny a minority because of the majority?

 

This question crept in my chat with those in what is now called the Tanzanian Diaspora. To their credit they frankly admitted that their call for dual citizenship is not mainly about the majority of Tanzanians who can hardly access privileges of single citizenship which, ironically, include the freedom of movement to anywhere. It is first and foremost about accessing privileges in Euro-America. Then, and then only, can they start talking about helping Tanzania through remittances.

 

I was particularly touched by personal anecdotes that inform their quest. Your boss decides to hold a staff meeting with a partner office in another European country. All staffs have passports authorizing them to cross to any country in the European Union. Except you! Gosh, so, you must apply for a VISA! It takes some time! But your office needs to buy cheap tickets! Online! Now! Yes, they want you to confirm your eligibility, now! Ah, your single citizenship is their liability!

 

No wonder our kith and kin in the Tanzanian Diaspora want the privileges accorded to Euro-Americans. So, as they put it, they can be able to compete globally. They don’t want to be the main character of Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, abroad. After all most of them, as I always insist regardless of lack of sufficient statistics to prove it, were not second class citizens at ‘home’. Their want is for Tanzania to level the global playground for them, through passports.

 

They want to be ‘citizens of the world’, don’t they? Why should they pay us USD 20 when they come back home to Tanzania? Aren’t they Tanzanians – at least in their minds and hearts – who are returning to their native land, not only for holidaying, but also to make an end to poverty through remittances and investments? Won’t the country benefit by privileging, nay, over-privileging its sons and daughters of the soil living abroad? By citizen duality, nay, multiplicity?

 

The problem with privileges, as the author of White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, Peggy McIntosh, reveals, is that the privileged tend to take them for granted – as a given. It is as if they think, albeit unaware, that everyone simply gets them every day just like them. Why? Because privileges can be a blind spot to those who are so used to them to the extent that they can ignore or opt to forget that others find it so difficult, if not impossible, to get them.

 

Not every Tanzanian gets a passport let alone goes abroad. It is the privilege of a few. Many don’t even have any form of identity card. It is not surprising then that my preliminary survey, while queuing to register for the forthcoming elections, revealed that many of those who daily withstood the rays of the Dar es Salaam sun did so to simply have a card that identifies them.

 

For sure Tanzania, like any other country, must take care of its citizens wherever they are. In this regard I completely agree with my compatriots’ call for the government to care for them while they are out there. This, I contend, can only be possible if we join hands in ensuring privileges of citizenship are also extended to all Tanzanians. After all each one of us ‘is’ because we ‘are’.

 

So, let us broaden the scope of single citizenship so as to cater for people of Tanzanian descent wherever they may be. But by descent I don’t mean race or ethnicity. I simply mean nationality.

 

© Chambi Chachage

 

Chambi Chachage is a Tanzanian academic.

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