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Dual Citizenship and Liberian Political Economy

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In his presentation, on behalf of the ULAA-led/sponsored Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference held in Washington, D. C., USA., entitled, “Making The Case For Dual Citizenship in Liberia”, December 7-8, 2012, Dr. George K. Kieh, Professor of Political Science and former Dean of the University of West Georgia, USA, argued that The Political Economy of Liberia provides the context for why some Liberians migrated to other countries . . . and acquired (naturalized) citizenship”.

“At the base”, Dr. Kieh held, “is (or was) a state whose central mission has been to create propitious conditions for the predatory accumulation of wealth by the owners of multinational corporations (e. g. Bong Mines, Firestone, Liberian Agricultural Company, LAMCO) and other foreign-owned businesses . . . and Liberian state managers and their relations . . . On the other hand, the state has visited deprivation and misery on the overwhelming majority o Liberians . . . The related feature is the unfair and unjust distribution of wealth and income. For example, in the 1980s”, he argued, “about 6% of Liberians (members of the ruling class) owned and controlled about 65% of the national wealth . . . This was made possible through the instrumentality of the state: The members of the ruling class used the state to engage in the predatory accumulation of wealth through an assortment of illegal means, principally, through the pillaging and plundering of the national treasury. Accordingly, the state has become like a ‘buffet service’ in which those who have state power in Liberia at particular historical junctures and their relations ‘eat all they can eat’ for free . . .”

“Another characteristic of the domestic, political Economy”, Dr. Kieh noted, “was (and is) the failure of state managers to provide basic ‘public goods’ such as employment, education, healthcare, etc.  Also, in order to keep their privileged positions, state managers, as instruments of the ruling class, have used the coercive powers of the state to visit physical violence on both the real and imagined opponents of the particular regime that is power at the time”.

“Cumulatively”, the Political Science Professor concludes that “the vagaries of the political economy led to multidimensional crises of under-development, which reflected the failure of the state (its unwillingness to provide for the basic needs of the majority of its citizens) . . . Concomitantly, state failure resulted in state collapse, as evidenced by the erosion of the legitimacy of the state and its regimes . . . The terminal phase of state collapse resulted in the military coup on April 12, 1980, and two civil wars in 1989 and 1999. In turn, these violent activities created an environment of insecurity, as the Liberian state became the principal threat to the safety and security of its own citizens”.

Put differently, Dr. Kieh’s presentation –  analysis/conclusion  – holds, reasonably, that the socio-economic and political impact –  of the Liberian political economy, dominated and controlled by the nation’s ruling class or groups bears the major, basic responsibility for the massive abandonment by Liberian citizens of their native country, Liberia, migration into foreign countries and taking on naturalized citizenships.

This conclusion is consistent with other, keen, historical observers/analysts of the Liberian experience.  For, the phrase Liberian ruling class, state mangers, used interchangeably by Dr. Kieh connote or are synonymous with identification of those select, few citizens who rule, direct, manage, dominate and control both political and economic governance of the Liberian state, known simply as the “ruling class” or “ruling groups”, the overwhelming majority of whose members were are dual citizens, and to whom the Liberian nation owes “the vagaries of the political economy (that) led to multidimensional crises of (socio-economic and political) under-development”, according to the facts of our past, recent past history and prevailing realities.

Journalist Toteh wrote that “Liberians have had (non-legalized) dual citizenship from day one (when) freed slaves landed on Liberian soil. Almost all Liberian government officials and their families (the ruling class) were and are (today) dual citizens, citizens of other countries and Liberia, especially the developed countries, with the US at the top of the list (Thomas Toteh, Voice of Liberia, October 19, 2012)”.

In the light of validated evidence (the celebrated case of Corkrum, Johnson and others), gains from dual citizenship were and are being transferred out of Liberia to buy homes, maintain families and educate children in foreign countries, a macroeconomic detriment to the Liberian economy, is it not a proper line of inquiry into setting reasonable parameters on dual citizenship in Liberia, in the effort to safeguard the peace, security and vital, political and economic interests of the state and its people?

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