‘Dual Citizenship’ Debate Resonates As Diaspora Liberians Mount Pressure on Weah’s Administration
Morovia: The debate around dual citizenship in Liberia has resonated with a call for the George Weah-led government to ensure that Liberians and their children abroad are covered under the laws of Liberia and the rights accorded thereof.
Recently, at a meeting organized by President Weah to interact and solicit the views of diaspora Liberians visiting the country, on Liberia’s development process, there huge calls for the government to fast track the matter.
Representatives at the meeting include the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas and the European Liberian Federation Association. Others came from South Sudan, Ghana, Australia, United Arab Emirates and the Scandinavian countries.
Representatives from the European Liberian Federation Association and Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas stressed that there is a need for dual citizenship to be taken seriously because of the impact it has on them in the diaspora and their children.
“There are many great Liberians living in Europe, America and other parts of the world who are doctors, lawyers and other great people who have the desire to come and contribute but the main issue here our country need to open its dual citizenship law to help also contribute to our country meaningfully”.
They lauded President Weah’s government for fast-tracking development in the country andcultivating close relationship with diaspora Liberians to make them a part of government’s development agenda; but also pointed out that swift actions need to be taken to enable Liberians abroad make impact through their work.
President Weah in response indicated that dual citizenship is essential to everyone including himself which he stated that his government presented the bill to the Legislature and it is currently before the Liberian Senate for action.
“Dual citizenship affects the lawmakers and even I because of our children, some of them have their children abroad and will wish that they come home one day to make impact”.
Currently, all President Weah’s children including Timothy Weah are affected by the citizenship clause under the Liberian Constitution due to their birth country outside the borders of Liberia.
Pres. Weah craved the indulgence of the Liberian Senate to ensure the bill is passed in an effort to afford Liberians and their children abroad including investors the opportunity to explore Liberia and carryout development. “We will work with the Liberian Senate when they return from their break to ensure the passage of the Dual Citizenship bill to help every one of us build this country,” Pres. Weah.
He also encouraged diaspora Liberians to remain engaged with his government and the people of Liberia in sustaining national peace and improving the wellbeing of the citizenry while pledging government’s support to all Liberians, including those in the diaspora, particularly citizens wishing to invest in the economy of the country.
“We want to ensure that Liberians are not spectators in the economy of their own country so we will continue to empower Liberians to the fullest and we promise equal opportunity for all Liberians to participate in the development of this country,” Pres. Weah noted.
Currently, the National Legislature is on its constituency break and it is expected to resume work the second working Monday of January 2019. Campaigners of the Dual Citizenship bill are of the strongest conviction that the Liberian Senate will act in the interest of those the bill affects. Pundits are of the belief that the Senate will scrutinize the bill in an effort to protect Liberians unlike other nationals who may want citizenships in acquiring properties, contesting elected offices among others.
Most Liberians abroad who have acquired other countries’ citizenships fled Liberia during the country’s 14 years of civil unrest which claimed the lives of over 250,000 Liberians and broke the country’s economy and infrastructure including its human resources development. Many were trapped in refugee camps in other countries and may their way to foreign land including the United States Europe Asia among others for safety, greener pastures etc.
The Liberian Constitution mainly the alien and Nationality law prohibits dual citizenship and the rights for others who are non-negro decent to own properties in Liberia and also enjoy the privileges and rights thereof. Article 27(b) of the Constitution under the terms of Chapter 20 of the Aliens and Nationality Law states that citizenship applies to any “person who is a Negro, or of Negro descent, born in Liberia and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” or “person born outside Liberia whose father was born a citizen of Liberia; was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the birth of such child, and had resided in Liberia prior to the birth of such child.” These provisions have been criticized as discriminatory on the basis of both race and sex.
During the Administration of former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a special constitutional review committee was setup to review the constitution and present prepositions for subsequent referendum in order for Liberians to decide changes relevant to the country and growth and stability.
Among the 17 prepositions, four (4) were selected and send to the legislature for scrutiny which would form part of a referendum.
Dual Citizenship was among the 4 prepositions and most Liberians locally focused on the impact of that Constitutional change owing to control of the economy by foreigners and also owing them gaining citizenship would ruin the existence of many Liberians. Others were of the believe that Liberians abroad and their children were not at fault with the laws due to their forceful departure by the civil war as such dual citizenship was needful to be passed.
Not until President George Manneh Weah’sadministration came to power in January 2018, there were several calls from diaspora Liberians and other well-meaning citizens in Liberia for the inclusion of Dual Citizenship on the upcoming referendum which will be decided by the National Legislature.
During the first year of Pres. Weah’s inaugural presidency, he mentioned that the world is rapidly changing and there is a need for a visitation of the country’s laws to suit present day’s reality. His comments were directed towards the acquisition of Liberian citizenship and the need to open the country’s citizenship to all nations, color or individual which he believes will improve the country’s investment, trade, and boost the economy.
Loss of Citizenship under the Liberian Law principally described in Chapter 22 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, although circumstances leading to revocation of naturalization are given in Chapter 21 indicates that acquiring the nationality of a foreign state, with the following exceptions: Liberian women who automatically acquire a foreign nationality upon marriage to a foreign man, The minor child (under 21) of Liberian parents naturalized abroad, provided that the child returns to Liberia to establish permanent residence before the 23rd birthday; taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state. Serving in the armed forces of a foreign state without the permission of the Liberian president Voting in a foreign election, and voluntarily renouncing Liberian citizenship according to the procedures set forth by the Liberian government.
The provision allowing for revocation of naturalization as a consequence of residence abroad has also been criticized as creating two classes of Liberian citizens and for reducing the capabilities of naturalized Liberians to pursue employment and educational opportunities abroad. The provision for the revocation of a minor’s naturalization following the revocation of the father’s naturalization has been termed as unfair to the child.