So, the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore, is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.– Genesis 11:8-9
There was a time in our folklore and biblical literature, we all spoke the same language and we all belonged to one country. Search for greener pastures, desire to have larger grazing ground for livestock, and growing families, led peoples moving to near and distant lands. This ultimately also led to the creation of countries, continents and regions as we know them today.
Centuries and millennia later, such countries created laws and regulations for how people enter and leave: passports, immigration, work permits, among other terms guiding us as we travel in and out of countries that are not our birth countries, with nationals receiving preferential in-country treatment.
In Malawi citizenship laws had double-edged sword as Malawians could not be citizens of their birth country and the country of their domicile: While a citizen of Malawi could not be a citizen of Malawi and also hold citizenship of another country, women on the other hand could not retain their citizenship should they marry a foreigner. Contrary to this, should a Malawian man marry a foreign woman, she automatically assumed Malawian citizenship.
This past week, the current sitting of Parliament, scrapped these 1966 provisions of Malawi Law, paving the way for Malawians to enjoy dual citizenship, and by the same swipe, give women their due equal rights with men before the Law as it pertains to citizenship of their foreign spouses.
Malawians in the Diaspora (Malawians In Texas Organization – MITO – and Malawi Washington Association – MWA), and numerous others outside and in Malawi, are singing and dancing and in high-speed jubilation: the Malawi Parliament amendment of the sections of the Citizenship Act, is a clear sign that their advocacy chants have borne good fruit. The first section permits Malawians living outside the country attain citizenship of the countries they reside in while retaining their Malawi citizenship. This is the dual citizenship clause, which many Malawians living outside the country have been requesting the Malawi government to consider.
The second section is the right of women to retain their citizenship when they marry foreigners. In August 2016, we reported that the issue on dual citizenship is guided by the 1966 Malawian constitution clause that does not accommodate for Malawian citizens and foreign nationals of Malawian descent over 21 years of age to hold dual citizenship. Recently, a couple have been thrown against the wall in a battle for a Malawi woman’s costly battle for her husband to retain his job in Malawi due to his foreign status.
The twist in the irony of the matter is that while a Malawian man who takes on a foreign spouse, only must pay $500, but the fee for a Malawian woman married to a foreign national is pegged at $2,500. This anomaly has to be corrected in the new dual citizenship law.
It is envisaged that the new legislation would heed to calls from such as the MITO and MWA.
We salute the honorable parliamentarians, for heeding to the wishes of Malawians in Malawi and beyond.
Long live genuine democracy!