By James Katongana
The Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control (Amendment) Act, 2009 provides for dual citizenship. Dual citizenship, according to the Act, means the simultaneous possession of two citizenships one of which is Ugandan.
A citizen of Uganda of 18 years and above, who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of a country other than Uganda, may retain the citizenship of Uganda subject to the Constitution, this Act and any law enacted by Parliament. On the other hand, a person who is not a citizen of Uganda may, on acquiring the citizenship of Uganda, subject to the Constitution, this Act and any other law enacted by Parliament, retain the citizenship of another country.
The main purpose of dual citizenship is the ability to live, work and claim benefits in two different countries. For many, the primary benefit of dual citizenship is the freedom to move between two countries easily. This often means not having to apply for a visa or other permission to enter or leave a country as often as one wishes. It can also simplify the process of purchasing a home or business in either country.
It may, however, make international travel more complex and increase one's tax liability. The details of holding citizenship in two countries vary dramatically depending on the countries involved and the decision to hold dual citizenship should be made on a case by case basis.
To me, the concept of dual citizenship is unethical to the ideal of loyalty to one’s homeland. Citizenship is a privilege for which people fight and give their lives. You even have twice as much responsibility. If citizenship requirements are eased too much, eventually the concept of citizenship will have little or no meaning. Citizenship connotes a powerful emotional bond for many that should not be taken lightly. Those who may not feel this way may instead recognise the more pressing concern that becoming a dual national could mean having to serve in a foreign country’s armed services or pay taxes to its government. Some countries like the UK, Australia and France also allow dual citizenship, but other countries such as India, China and Germany do not allow this option.
Dual nationals need to remember that they are subject to the laws of both countries. That may include some benefits, but it also may include tax and military responsibilities. If a dual citizen visits one of the countries, the government may have the legal right to compel him to serve out his military obligation if there is one. The act of becoming a citizen of more than one country may turn out to be dangerous. It is like taking on more than one wife.
There is another scenario where the war breaks out between the two countries where one holds a dual citizenship and is required to defend his country, where would he fall. Would he remain on the fence or go against one of his countries? I think there is a conflict of interest here.
As Ugandans register for national identity cards, registration officers should be cautious about those who may want to be dual citizens either by running away from their national obligations in their countries although the law allows them to do so.
The writer is Pan Africanist