I am often asked if I want to become British and my interviewers are often surprised when I say no. Their next question is invariably why not? Well, because I am not British, I am Zambia. I have never had any intention to change my nationality and my stance has not changed.
Taking my stance as an insult to their country, many then ask, rather resentfully, what I am doing in the UK if I do not want to become British. Their assumption is that I left my country looking for a better life. In reality I had not intended to stay this long, I was taking a sabbatical after which I was planning to return to my own life and my country of birth. And despite a change in circumstances resulting in my living in the UK indefinitely, I still feel homesick and I am still hoping to return to Lusaka one day.
Why am I so insistent that Zambia is my home? Well Zambia is where my roots are, where my family came from, where my village is. Where my ancestors settled, where they chose to make their home. Zambian blood runs through my veins, I have been connected to the land and the people of Zambia for longer than I have been alive, for longer than Zambia, the country, has been in existence.
I enjoy and miss sharing the food of my motherland, the taste of bream from the waters of the Zambezi, the meat of a chicken that has been running around, foraging on Zambian soil; I miss the easy understanding that I associate with Zambian customs, Zambian languages and accents. My body is in tune with the seasons so much so that every November I crave the smell of the first rains hitting the parched soil, the sound of the rain hitting the roof.
More importantly Zambia is the place I FEEL at home. Despite my long associations with the UK I find the customs here alien to my own, the people are different from me, the lifestyle, attitudes and language foreign to me. I am, ultimately, an outsider here.
Despite this in the next few years or so I may be given an ultimatum, become a British citizen or leave the country. I have been following news of the new measures proposed by the British government with growing fury at the arrogance and injustice of it. According to reports foreigners from non EU countries living in Britain will be expected to go through a new expanded citizenship process or leave the country. This is to stop people such as myself who are apparently wishing to live in limbo.
The new rules will also change the the time period within which one can become British by adding a probationary period during which potential immigrants will have to prove their worth and show that they are intergrating into their communities by participtaing in community work, running a sports team or playgroup (supposedly you would have to go through the usual poplice checks before you were allowed near children), serving as a school governor and other such activities.
Why am I making a fuss, after all I could apply for citizenship and have dual citizenship? Actually no, it is currently illegal for a Zambian citizen to have dual nationality, so in order for me to get British citizenship I would have to give up my Zambian citizenship. So to go to my country of birth I would need visa, an inconvinience I am willing to endure to visit other peoples countries, not my own.