- One day after his passport was confiscated, Tanzanian veteran journalist and editor of the weekly independent 'Dira' newspaper in Zanzibar, Ali Nabwa, has yesterday reached an agreement with the Department of Immigration.
What looked like yet another attack on the independent press of Tanzania has thus been resolved. The agreement reached implied that Mr Nabwa would surrender his Tanzanian citizenship and reapply for it as the Department had demanded earlier this year. A new citizenship would then be granted.
- We have agreed to settle our differences, Mr Nabwa told the Tanzanian chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Tanzania) yesterday afternoon. "They were committed to resolve this issue, and I have accepted their directives," he added.
Mr Nabwa said that the Department of Immigration recognised his Tanzanian citizenship. The Department's only concern was that he possesses a Comoran passport and since this is in conflict with his Tanzanian citizenship, he needed to surrender his citizenship and apply for it again, Mr Nabwa related to MISA-Tanzania.
He said he has been allowed to continue with his business as usual while the government finalizes the processes of granting him a three-month temporary passport and a working permit.
- These two documents will allow me continue with my business before reapplying for citizenship on 2 July," he said. Mr Nabwa added that he is required by law to pay US$ 400 to the Department of Immigration for the process of reapplying for his citizenship.
On 24 June, Ali Nabwa's passport was confiscated by the Department of Immigration in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar. Mr Nabwa had been stripped of his Tanzanian citizenship on 19 March and directed to reapply for it if he so wished. He was given until 18 June this year to surrender his passport to the Immigration Department.
The Immigration Department explained in a letter that Mr Nabwa had lost his rights as a Tanzanian citizen when he took up the citizenship of the Comoros as an adult. According to the Zanzibar Assistant Director of Immigration Services, Ali Khamis Ali, Mr Nabwa had been staying in the country illegally since his passport, issued in December 1993, was issued illegally.
The letter quoted the Tanzanian Immigration Act, which says that "a citizen of the United Republic of Tanzania shall cease to be a citizen if having attained the age of 18, he acquired the citizenship of some country other than the United Republic of Tanzania by a voluntary act other than marriage."
- The Tanzanian government's move to strip journalists of citizenship began in 2001, according to MISA, "when, in a move that shocked many, the government announced it had stripped a veteran journalist and Chairman of Habari Corporation, Jenerali Ulimwengu, of his citizenship alongside three other people because they allegedly could not prove their parents' citizenship."
Enraged by the government's move against journalists, the Chairman of MISA-Tanzania, Salva Rweyemamu, made the following statement during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May: "When the punishment of removal of citizenship was used for the first time in the history of this country against one publisher two years ago, some of us immediately noted that the government had succeeded in dreaming up of a new Weapon of Media Destruction (WMD). We feared it would be used frequently, and we were not wrong, as a recent example in Zanzibar can confirm".
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