Coming to Terms with Dual Citizenship - The African Experiment

Over 60 years after most African countries gained independence, the subject of dual nationality is still under consideration in some nations, including Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania and the Cameroons. In these countries, the case against dual nationality seems strong at first glance, but are they reasonable enough? 

Concerns about granting dual nationality 

Across these countries, those who stand against dual nationality have very similar, if not the same concerns. These concerns include the potential for dual nationality to accommodate insurgents like the Boko Haram in the North of the Cameroons and the forfeiting of visa fees, which seem to be a source of income for many of these nations. 

It also encourages anti patriotic tendencies. And chief amongst political concerns is that it could give right to those who have lived all their lives abroad to suddenly come back to contest for presidential elections. 

Presidential elections appear to be a major concern and that was demonstrated in Ethiopia earlier this year when Jawar Mohammed, one of the country’s prominent politicians returned to participate in elections. 

Although he claimed to have renounced his US citizenship, Ethiopia’s electoral body opened an investigation to verify his eligibility. Whether or not Jawar Mohammed is eligible to run for president is not quite as significant as the reluctance of several African nations to accept the benefits of dual nationality. 

Why the push for dual citizenship? 

Interestingly, many of the objections raised by those against dual nationality can be dealt with by making provisions in the law that curb excesses. Besides, nations like Nigeria which have come to terms with the advantages of dual nationality and embraced it must have found a way around these objections and are benefitting from dual nationality. Or are they?

Well, we can consider one of the benefits of dual nationality and possibly understand why the Cameroons for example are making moves to embrace it. 

To begin with, many Africans firmly believe in “making it” abroad. And a good number of them do. Many of those in the diaspora have the capacity to make real investments in their country, both socio-culturally as well as politically. But the thought of being rejected by their country of origin upon naturalizing in another country is discouraging.  

Besides, there are several nationals who have attained achievements worth celebrating and which could bring great benefits to their countries. But clearly laws prohibiting dual nationality also forfeit such benefits. 

According to the law in the Cameroons, a person can only be considered a National by descent, birth, declaration, reintegration, naturalization or marriage, naturalization. According to law of June 11, 1968 in the Cameroons, a Cameroonian citizen automatically loses his or her Cameroonian nationality when he or she obtains the citizenship of another country.  

But recently a preliminary code presented in the national assembly of Cameroon may change this if accepted. Many Cameroonians anticipate a positive response from the government, but there are no certainties, especially considering that back in 2014, Honorable Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) proposed an amendment to this law which was never considered. 

Finally, it is important to note that the approval of certain laws in many African countries lies on heads of states who have reasons not to approve laws favoring dual nationality. Chief amongst those reasons is the fact that people in the diaspora are often more exposed and informed about human rights and political issues. 

Many of them also have the money and connection to stand up against the failures of governments and they can do so freely from nations where they are residents. This alone gives many heads of state reasons not to support or approve of laws supporting dual nationality. That such leaders will have to come to terms with would be a milestone. 


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