By Dibussi Tande
"Worldwide, arguments against dual citizenship have become less compelling, over time, while arguments in favour of dual citizenship have become stronger, and especially over the last 10 to 15 years…"
As we saw in the first part of this article, globalization has dramatically altered the dual citizenship debate in many countries. The political reasons that were once used to reject dual citizenship in the 20th century are today steadily giving way to powerful economic and cultural arguments in favor of dual citizenship.
As a report by Bella consultants (cited by Edmund Bargblor) states:
"Dual citizenship is becoming more common in today's increasingly interconnected economy. Countries such as India, the Philippines and Mexico are now seeking the advantages of dual citizenship by liberalizing their citizenship laws. These countries have realized that dual citizenship has the advantages of broadening a country's economic base, fostering trade and investment between the dual citizen's two respective countries."
This view is shared by Africa’s Brain Drain, an NGO dedicated to turning the brain drain into a brain gain, which argues on its website that:
“Immigration regulations are cited as one of the barriers to exchange of skills and knowledge across borders. Foreign based professionals need to be assured that they would be able to return to their adopted country once they leave. Immigration laws in some industrialized nations require migrants to remain in the country for a specified period or risk losing their residence status. On the other hand, those who have been naturalized in their new country often have to make a choice between that or their home state, as some African countries do not recognize dual citizenship. Hence the need of more African authorities to allow dual citizenship.”
As a leading Ugandan dual citizenship proponent pointed out during Uganda's debate on dual citizenship a couple of years ago: "If dual citizenship is easily available in all of Africa, then it would allow expatriates to return and invest in their birthplace, entice foreign investors and promote cross-border cooperation."
Increasing calls for dual citizenship across the African continent are also driven by a growing recognition that the African Diaspora is making immense contributions to the national economies of African countries, and that this contribution will only increase with the liberalization of citizenship laws. This was the stance taken by Ghana when it finally adopted the Dual Citizenship Regulation Act on July 3, 2002. Speaking during the occasion, Dr. Addo-Kufuor, acting Minister of the Interior at the time, stated that:
“The legislation is a tribute to the great support Ghana has received from her citizens who have been living beyond her shores over the years. This support has been in the areas of economic, technical, social and infrastructural development … The NRGS contribution of 400 million dollars cannot be treated lightly, and so the importance Ghana attaches to NRGS cannot be overemphasized.”
Similarly, when India, a one-time leading opponent of dual citizenship, finally passed a law recognizing dual citizenship in 2003, the motivating factor for this dramatic change of heart was the need to tap into the skills of India’s mammoth Diaspora. According to the Government of India:
“Persons of Indian origin settled in economically more advanced countries of the world have skills and expertise in vital sectors. The facility of Dual Citizenship would foster better co-operation in these sectors by way of investments and transfer of skills and resources.
The need of the PIOs to build emotional and cultural bonds with their will now be strengthened and will facilitate the Diaspora's contribution in India's social Development.
Dual Citizenship would also help to bring about and establish links of the younger generation of the Diaspora with India as they may be keen to keep in touch with their roots.”
Says Bhanoji Rao:
“One can take a sanguine view and extrapolate that India's stand to allow dual citizenship is one more step in its role as an emerging and confident global power which, in the years to come, would help usher in what might eventually lead to the establishment a global citizenry with freedom of movement to pursue opportunities wherever they arise.”
A Bridge to the Foreign Born Generation
While the dual citizenship debate has generally focused on first generation immigrants who still have direct ties to their countries of birth, there is increasing interest in the children and grandchildren of these immigrants who are born in these foreign countries, and who have only a tenuous link to their parents’ countries of birth. In this case, dual citizenship offers an incentive to reconnect with their roots. Most significantly, it opens up the possibility of them living, working or setting up businesses in their parents’ countries of origin.
In an article on strategies that African countries can use to tap into the potential of its Diaspora communities (“Good Ideas for Using the Diaspora”), e-Africa online journal (Sept. 2003, p 16) makes a strong case for extending citizenship to the foreign born children and spouses of Africans in the Diaspora:
“Many countries are examining how to make it easier for those living abroad with foreign-born children or spouses to return home. Dual citizenship would facilitate the freedom of movement of Africans between developed countries and the continent allowing skills to move as opportunities arise. It will also help prevent well-educated children born abroad from losing touch with Africa.”
This is a policy which countries such as Ireland are already benefiting from. Ireland now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world thanks in part to its "citizenship by descent" laws which allow the third and subsequent generation children born abroad to an Irish citizen to become Irish citizens by simply proving that one of their grandparents was Irish, even if none of their parents was born in Ireland.
A tool for building political clout
One of the rarely-mentioned benefits of dual citizenship, particularly for countries with well-organized Diaspora communities, is the ability of dual citizens to influence economic and political decisions in their host country in favor of their country of descent. For example, the potential influence of Mexican citizens on the American political system was one of the main reasons why Mexico ultimately abandoned its age-old hostility towards dual citizenship in 1998, and started to actively lobby Mexican nationals in the US who were eligible for US citizenship to take up that citizenship.
In 2002, the Mexican government even organized a series of "nationality fairs” across the US to educate Mexicans on the benefits of dual nationality, encourage them to organize themselves into a potent political force within the US political system, and to use their political strength to influence key issues of interest to Mexicans such as immigration.
Chicago Tribune was on target when it observed that “Foreign countries are increasingly encouraging expatriates… to claim dual citizenship, hoping to capitalize on the political clout and financial resources of those who have built new lives abroad.”
The different flavors of dual citizenship
The list of countries that accept dual citizenship around the world and in Africa keeps on growing by the day. It is worth noting, however, that the form of dual nationality varies from country to country.
According to Ghana’s Citizenship Act of 2000 which went into effect in July 2002, “A citizen of Ghana may hold the citizenship of any other country in addition to his citizenship of Ghana.” Citizens who lost their citizenship as a result of the previous law which proscribed dual citizenship can regain their Ghanaian citizenship by apply to the Ministry of Interior for reinstatement.
Dual citizens have the same rights as other Ghanaian citizens. However, they cannot occupy certain key positions in the Government, the Army and security apparatus. Some of positions in question include Justices of the Supreme Court, Ambassador, Chief Director of a Ministry, or a Colonel in the Army.
In December 2003, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship (amendment) Bill granting dual citizenship to people of Indian origin around the world. The primary objective of this act is to (a) "simplify the procedure to facilitate the re-acquisition of Indian citizenship by persons of full age who are children of Indian citizens, and former citizens of independent India" and (b) "provide for the grant of overseas citizenship of India to persons of Indian origin belonging to specified countries, and Indian citizens who choose to acquire the citizenship of any of these countries at a later date".
Like its Ghanaian counterpart, the Indian citizenship bill lists a number of positions in government that cannot be occupied by overseas citizens of India. For example they cannot become President or Vice President, a Supreme Court or High Court Judge, a member of the House of the People or of the Council of States, or a member of the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council.
The South African Citizenship Amendment Act of 2004 which came into effect on 15 September 2004, enshrines the constitutional right to citizenship. Consequently, South Africans can no longer lose their South African citizenship if they become citizens of another country. However, the law requires that South Africans must use their South African passport to enter or leave South Africa, although they can freely use their foreign passports outside South Africa.
A Need for Concerted and Sustained Action
In practically all the cases where national governments eventually adopted dual citizenship legislation, the change of heart was the result of extensive and sustained lobbying by their respective Diaspora communities. Cameroon is no different. For the issue of dual citizenship to register on the national Richter scale, the Cameroonian Diaspora must craft a coherent and organized lobbying strategy which clearly breaks from the solitary and attempts made so far to get the Government interested in the issue.
For starters, the Diaspora community should create a powerful organization whose sole mission and focus will be on changing article 31 of the Nationality code which prohibits dual citizenship.
Such an organization should rally legal experts, historians, economists, political scientists, etc, to produce a series of position papers which make a comprehensive and compelling case for dual nationality. Once completed, these position papers should be given the widest publicity possible in Cameroon and abroad. The campaign should also include taking out full page ads in leading Cameroonian newspapers
Representatives of the organization should be prepared to go to Cameroon to make their case directly to the Cameroonian people, and to Cameroonian politicians, legislators, the Government, civil society activists, the media, and the business and academic communities.
Like every lobbying effort, there is no guarantee that such a campaign will pay off immediately. The case of India, which is now at the forefront of the dual citizenship movement, is instructive in this regard. The Indian Diaspora community began to actively lobby for dual citizenship as far back as the 1970s during the Government of Prime Minister Moraji Desai who was openly hostile to the concept (Desai is famously remembered for his anti dual-citizenship quip that “no man can serve two masters”). It would take close to 30 years of persistent, unflagging and well-funded and very professional lobbying efforts by the Indian Diaspora and its allies in India to convince Indian politicians and legislators that dual citizenship was indeed a win-win situation.