Proud of being Ugandan, I want to be Kenyan too! By Charles Onyango-Obbo THE EAST AFRICAN Posted Monday, June 7 2010 at 00:00 Few things illustrate how Africa has changed over the past 15 years than a tiny book called a national passport, and dual citizenship. If Kenya passes the draft constitution, it will join Rwanda and Uganda in enjoying that animal called dual citizenship. Rwanda was the first East African Community country to have it, and Uganda followed in 2005, when it amended the constitution. When things like dual citizenship are being passed, you never quite think of how they will play out. Recently, I got a taste. I ordered up passport renewal forms, and they arrived as a package with one that I didnt expectfor dual citizenship registration. The most surprising thing is its size. Its letter sizes are unusually huge, more than double the size of those in the regular passport application form. The reason for that is obvious; if the letters were not so huge the form would be just a page. Still, with its huge letters, it is barely two pages. Until then, I had not imagined filling out a two-page form was all it would take to apply for dual citizenship, because the history of passports in Africa has been a long and vexed one. For many years in most African countries, a passport was not a right. It was not enough to be a citizen. You had to fulfil several other conditions, including meeting a patriotism test. A patriotism test was, often, a measure of yours and your familys support for the ruling one-party government of the day. But even after passing a patriotism test, it would still take three months to get the passport. Beginning in the early 1990s, new democratic constitutions were passed in several African countries in the second liberation, and a travel document was granted as a basic citizenship right. The practice of governments stripping nationals of their citizenship also became outlawed. The process of issuing passports became remarkably efficient, with the result that in Uganda a regular guy can get his passport renewed within two hours. However, even in countries where the passport was demystified, it remained the height of treason to have dual citizenship. It was just inconceivable, as most African governments believed that it would be the end of sovereignty and whatever figments of independence they thought their countries still had. To be accused of having dual citizenship was the kiss of death you could be arrested. And, if you were running for a parliamentary seat and your opponent accused you of dual citizenship, you were finished, because it proved you were not a patriot. Now this thing that was considered treason only a few years ago is here, and it is kind of anti-climatic in a sense, because I never imagined it would all come down to one page. Also, that it is not mandatory for you to appear personally to be interviewed by an immigration officer for several days. Countries like Rwanda that have been at it longer, seem to have learnt from experience that just because you have dual citizenship, the whole world will not be tripping over themselves to become citizens of your country. Now for the next step after dual citizenship. It will teach us that our national flags and borders are worth little. Without realising it, we have made a huge step towards an African confederation.