ONE of the draft provisions that should elate many Zambians in the Diaspora is Article 39 that proposes to reinstate the citizenship of Zambians who lost it because they took citizenship of another country.
Article 39 of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill states, “A citizen shall not lose citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country” adding, “A citizen who ceased to be a citizen before the commencement of this constitution as a result of acquiring the citizenship of another country, shall be entitled to apply, as prescribed, to the Citizenship Board of Zambia, for the citizenship and the Citizenship Board of Zambia shall bestow citizenship on that person.”
This replaces Article 9 of the current constitution which states, “A person shall cease to be a citizen of Zambia if that person (a) acquires the citizenship of a country other than Zambia by a voluntary act, other than marriage; and (b) does any act indicating that person’s intention to adopt or make use of any other citizenship.”
Zambians who, for various reasons, are resident in other countries and took up citizenship of those countries ceased to be Zambians by that act, even if they did not renounce Zambian citizenship. At every constitution review commission such people have petitioned that this article be removed but met mixed reactions from both ordinary people and some political leaders, including those in power.
Some of the opponents to this amendment asserted that a person with dual citizenship had divided loyalties and could not be trusted to serve the interests of Zambia. On the other hand, those supporting dual citizenship provision argue that it is possible for a person to be loyal to two countries and that this is common in many countries.
They further argue that a person who resides in a foreign country can be economically beneficial to his country of origin as such a person remits money home and may even invest in properties and other economically beneficial activities. The advantages of being a citizen of a country of residence include getting better paying jobs and earning useful experience that outweigh the fear that such a person might have divided loyalties and favour the country of adoption.
The existing constitution requires that a person wishing to take up Zambian citizenship renounce the citizenship of the other country or take oath of allegiance if the country of origin does not require such a person to renounced that citizenship.
The amendment Bill does, however, provide for renunciation or loss of Zambian citizenship.
The Bill states that “(a) a citizen may renounce citizenship as prescribed, or (b) shall be deprived of citizenship if that citizenship was acquired by means of fraud, false representation or concealment of a material fact.”
The Amendment Bill goes further than the current constitution by providing for entitlements and responsibilities of a citizen. The entitlements include enjoyment of rights, privileges and benefits that the constitution provides all the citizens.
The responsibilities include, “to be patriotic to Zambia, … provide national, defence and military service when called upon; … understand and enhance Zambia’s place in the international community; … register and vote, if eligible, in national and local government elections and referenda”
Opponents of dual citizenship might use this Article to campaign against it arguing that such citizens would have difficulties choosing which country to provide such military services when required by both countries at the same time.
Because they are citizens of two countries, dual citizenships holders may register and vote in the two countries.
However, the proponents of dual citizenship assert that the fears are only a perception and not real as there was strong evidence in favour of dual citizenship submitted to constitution review commissions resulting in acceptance to insert this in the final draft by the Annel Silungwe Technical Committee drafting the Zambian Constitution. Many petitioners argued that there was a lot to be gained by Zambia and that it would put Zambia in line with many other countries, “to enhance Zambia’s place in the international community.”
Many people who believe much good can be derived from Zambians in the Diaspora who also take up citizenship of the countries of residence assert that it would be unkind and undermine the promotion of Zambia’s interests if hundreds of thousands of citizens were to be rejected on account of unsubstantiated fears that dual citizenship erodes loyalty to the country of origin and promotes criminality, as some of its opponents argue.