By Dr Elvis Mpakati Gama, PhD
Open letter to Vice President Saulos Chilima, On Dual citizenship in Malawi
Your Honorable as someone in the diaspora here in the UK, permit me to briefly comment on the recently passed bill allowing dual citizenship in Malawi.
To begin with, please join me in congratulating the current government for taking the bold step and passing the dual citizenship bill in our parliament on 12th December 2018, as this has demonstrated the government’s seriousness about the involvement of Malawian diaspora in the development of Malawi.
Your Honor, while we in the diaspora are happy with this government policy, it is very worrying to note that some politicians including yourself are causing unnecessary challenges by alleging that the passing of dual citizenship bill is your brain child. Hence, instead of celebrating this momentous mile stone, which will enable Malawian living abroad to freely engage in development and economic activities of the country, some politicians including yourself have turned this into a propaganda tool.
Based on my own experience and that of many Malawian diaspora communities around the world, the aim of this letter is to provide some evidence showing that the idea of introducing dual citizenship in Malawi has been around and has evolved over the years.
As the Vice President of Malawi, you may recall that the Malawi Government initiated the Diaspora Engagement Programme in 2012 and established the Diaspora Affairs Unit in the Ministry Foreign Affairs, to manage the programme.
The Unit is headed by a Coordinator who is supported by Foreign Service Officer. The initiative was made upon the realization that Malawi has a significant community of Diaspora with a diversity of resources which could be harnessed
to develop the country.
The government’s definition of Diaspora includes Malawian citizens, collectively, residing outside the country for an indefinite period whether for employment, business, education or any other purpose as well as persons of Malawian origin residing outside the country, holding citizenship of another country but still having interests in Malawi.
Since the initiation of the diaspora engagement programme, we in the diaspora have witnessed an increased interaction and involvement with Malawi government officials through meetings and other public functions. The key objective of these meetings and public functions with government official has been to find ways of involving the diaspora community in issues related to economic development in Malawi. During these gatherings the issue of dual citizenship has always been the first item on the agenda.
Following from many meetings, it was established that the lack of dual citizenship in Malawi is acting as the main bottleneck impeding the involvement of Malawian diaspora communities in participating in national development.
Your Honor, below are three examples of such meetings;
On 23rd President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika held a meeting with the Malawi diaspora community in London, United Kingdom. During the meeting the President assured all Malawian living in the UK that He will sort out the dual citizenship issue.
The UK meeting was followed by a similar meeting in September,2018 in the United States of America (USA), Washington DC, where President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika met Malawians living in the USA.
At this gathering The President assured the participant that the dual citizenship issues will be sorted. In addition to the these two meetings by the President, early this year the Reserve Bank of Malawi held a similar meeting with Malawian diaspora in the United States of America as documented by Suzgo Chitete in the Nation Newspaper article available at https://www.mwnation.com/rbm-hails-airtel-malawi-for-new-innovations/?diaspora-engagement-policy%2F.
Based on what I have described above, we in the diaspora, the passing of the dual citizenship bill by the Malawi Parliament is seen as a positive response following numerous meeting, we have had with various government officials.
That is, we do not consider the passing of the dual citizenship bill as a political maneuver by the current government as suggested by yourself and others, who are accusing the government for copying and implementing a policy strategy.
However, we are taking this as a victory resulting from the dialogue with our government.
Given the above, we are of the opinion that the government is just being responsive to the needs of its citizen residing abroad and at the same time implementing a policy that will help it achieve its objective of engaging the Malawian diaspora community.
It is therefore my humble plea to you Sir, that as a Malawian yourself and an aspiring President, please let’s give credit where it is due and celebrate President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika’s achievement on introducing dual citizenship supported in parliament and won Malawi great respect within as well as international recognition beyond our borders.
This is against what we’ve had in the past forty years (40yrs) when dual citizenship was not instituted as a way of life in the polity.
I wish you well Sir,
Dr Elvis Mpakati Gama, PhD
Malawian Diaspora, UK