Malawians living in the diaspora have welcomed the amendment to the Citizenship Act which now provides for dual citizenship, describing the move as long overdue and a step in the right direction.
The Bill, which was passed on Wednesday, repeals Sections 8 to 11 of the Citizenship Act which dealt with citizenship of children born outside Malawi, loss of citizenship if a person acquires another citizenship other than by marriage and loss of citizenship by a Malawian woman who marries a foreigner unless she denounces her other citizenship.
Malawi Association United Kingdom chairperson Hannington Gondwe said the amendment to the law would have socio-economic benefits as people will now be able to explore investment opportunities in Malawi freely which would in turn contribute to Malawi’s economic growth.
He said: “Among other benefits is the opportunity for individuals who would like to transfer skills, such as medical doctors.”
For children born in the diaspora, the repeal of Section 7, which obligated them to denounce their country of birth upon reaching 21 years, would enable them to reconnect with Malawi better as opposed to being treated as foreigners and applying for visa’s in a country of their parents’ birth.
But the umbrella association for all Malawian regional associations in the UK has further observed that there are quarters who might have different schools of thoughts on the development such as the potential that dual citizenship has to water down a sense of patriotism in Malawians living outside the country.
Gondwe however said cost-benefit analysis favours the adoption by Malawi dual-nationality and those who have acquired nationalities of other countries have lost their Malawianess.
Much as the Bill was eventually passed, there was dissent from the opposition on the timing of the introduction of the legislation which, until this week, did not appear on the Order Paper.
Both Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP) said the move by government to fast track the Bill was meant to gain political mileage ahead of elections.
MCP spokesperson on the bill Maxwell Thyolera said even though MCP was in support of the bill, the amendments made are few and it will need more amendments.
PP’s Ralph Mhone said government could have done a better job than rushing to amend something which will have consequences.
The piecemeal amendments have come at a time when the Malawi Law Commission is reviewing the Citizenship Act.