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Zambia: Constitutional Changes on Citizenship, Elections

(Jan. 13, 2016) Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu, approved a new Constitution for the country on January 5, 2016. Among other changes, the new document permits dual citizenship and sets a date for the next elections.  (Government Urges Zambians Living in Diaspora to Apply for Dual Citizenship, LUSAKA TIMES (Jan. 7, 2016), Open Source Center No. CEP20090721950177; Zambia Sets Presidential Election to August 2016, ALJAZEERA (Jan. 4, 2016).)

Dual Citizenship

On January 6, 2016, Zambia’s Ministry of Home Affairs urged Zambians living in other countries and foreigners residing in Zambia to apply for dual citizenship. Dual citizenship is now permitted under the recently approved amendments to the Zambian Constitution.  (Government Urges Zambians Living in Diaspora to Apply for Dual Citizenship, supra.)

In the 1996 Constitution, dual citizenship was explicitly disallowed. (Constitution of Zambia 1996, art. 9, ACE PROJECT.)  By contrast, the recently approved document states:

(1) A citizen, by birth, shall not lose that citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country.

(2) A person who, before the commencement of this Constitution, acquired the citizenship of another country and as a result ceased to be a Zambian citizen as specified in clause (1), is entitled, on application, to regain the citizenship. (The Constitution of Zambia, Bill, 200-, art. 26, ZAMBIA ONLINE (last visited Jan. 8, 2016)  [Note:  revisions to the document have been made since the drafting of this version].)

A spokesman for the Ministry, Moses Suwali, stated that dual citizenship will put Zambia on a “progressive road,” by allowing Zambians living abroad to return and contribute to the country’s development. He added that the procedure for applying for dual citizenship is similar to the application for a passport, except that a valid other passport would be required.  (Government Urges Zambians Living in Diaspora to Apply for Dual Citizenship, supra.) 

Presidential Election 

The new Constitution specifies that both presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on August 11, 2016; previously, the President set an election date every five years. In addition, presidential candidates will now have vice-presidential running mates, replacing the former practice of the President appointing the Vice President (art. 149).  Winning tickets will need more than 50% of the vote (art. 134).  The last presidential election was held in January 2015 and resulted in the election of Lungu to finish the term of deceased President Michael Sata.  (Zambia Sets Presidential Election to August 2016, supra; Constitution of Zambia Bill.)