- The editor of weekly independent newspaper 'Dira', Ali Nabwa's passport yesterday was confiscated by the Department of Immigration in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar (Tanzania). Mr Nabwa thus lost his Tanzanian citizenship, as several journalists have before him.
Speaking to the Tanzania office of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) early this morning, the Sports and Features editor of 'Dira' newspaper who is also BBC Kiswahili correspondent from Zanzibar, Ali Saleh, said his editor is no longer a Tanzanian citizen.
- Since yesterday morning at 8.00am Ali Nabwa is no longer a Tanzanian citizen, said Ali Saleh. "Maybe he will reapply for citizenship."
Asked to verify the saga, Ali Nabwa told MISA-Tanzania early today that it was true that his passport was seized yesterday and that he was heading to the Department of Immigration to lodge a complaint and get some important directives.
- It is true that my passport is no longer with me now, but I am heading to the Department of Immigration, he said and asked MISA-Tanzania to call him again in the afternoon for an update.
Mr Nabwa was first stripped of his Tanzanian citizenship on 19 March, and directed to reapply for it if he so wished.
The state-run 'Daily News' newspaper of 25 March reported that a letter signed by the Zanzibar Assistant Director of Immigration Services, Ali Khamis Ali, said Mr Nabwa had been staying in the country illegally since his passport numbered A0111824, issued in Zanzibar on 7 December 1993 was issued illegally. Mr Nabwa was given until 18 June this year to surrender his passport to the Immigration Department.
The Immigration Department explained in the letter with reference number IF/17086 dated March 19, 2003 that Mr Nabwa lost his rights as a Tanzanian citizen when he took up the citizenship of the Republic of Comoro as an adult.
The letter quoted Immigration Act Number 1995, Section (4)(a), 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".
Mr Nabwa had been advised to reapply for Tanzania citizenship if he so wished under the procedures stipulated in section 9(1) and the second Law Appendix Number 6 of 1995.
The Tanzanian government's move to strip journalists of citizenship began in 2001 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.
Angered 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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