Pursuant to a Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference sponsored by the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, Inc. (ULAA), held by a handful of our compatriots, “Liberians in the Diaspora”, in Washington, D. C., USA on December 7-8, 2012, a group led by Mr. Emmanuel S. Wettee, ULAA Chairman of the Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference, is here in Monrovia, Liberia, to seek passage of amendment/repeal of our constitutional and statutory Laws against dual citizenship in Liberia.
Most of the leaders of this “campaign” for dual citizenship, now in Monrovia, and the body of proponents of dual citizenship in Liberia are citizens of foreign countries, while others are resident aliens with applications for naturalization. In other words, these “Liberians” are lawful citizens of foreign countries, while they hold on to Liberian citizenship or dual citizens, a patent violation of our law. Now, caught in the claws of the law, they seek a persuasive argument against lawful application of the Law.
What are the Facts & the Law?
The history of citizenship is a description of the changing relationships (or contracts) between the individual, the citizen, and the political community, the nation-state, with particular respect to governing conditions – legal rights, obligations and responsibilities of the citizen to the nation-state, and of the nation-state to the citizen. This mode of relationship, according to history, dates from the days of the political thinkers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) of ancient, Greek city-states through middle ages to our modern, contemporary times, influenced, primarily, by human reason and the evolution in ideas (the French and US Revolutions, etc.).
Fundamentally, citizenship is defined by and based on “Love-of-country” – loyalty, allegiance and patriotism, and other, related, lawful obligations of the citizen to the state, and the state to the citizen. These obligations include such services (civil disasters and military conflicts, socio-economic, political and security) that are so very important that they constitute major components of the curriculum for the study of Civics, the course of study designed to impart and instill into the minds of young citizens the critical, lawful and moral obligations of citizen to the state and the state to the citizen; notions of loyalty, allegiance and patriotism; socio-cultural principles and values; and the sense of national belonging, individual/collective, national identity, unity and security.
B. Dual Citizenship
Dual citizenship is synonymous with “dual nationality” in which an individual possesses or is lawful citizen, simultaneously, of two or more sovereign nations. Under International Law, such citizenship is governed and recognized only by a Treaty by and between the nations concerned. Such has not been the case in Liberia.
Nations, like persons or individuals are unlike in their natural endowments; they are not the same, in terms of their needs, desires, capabilities, etc. In the context of nations, the critical issues are socio-cultural homogeneity, education, information, politics, economics and military (national security), etc.; therefore, nations enact and enforce domestic laws designed to promote, protect and defend their peculiar needs and vital interests, including requirements for granting naturalized citizenships.
Dual citizenship is not new in Liberian. Characterized by political infidelity to the Liberian nation, dual citizenship has been in practice of public/private dishonesty or corruption in Liberia since the days of founding of the nation by freed slaves in 1847. Almost all Liberian government officials, their families and related, socio-economic classes were, and some, today, are dual citizens, especially, of developed countries, with the United States at the top of the preferred countries (Thomas Toteh, Diaspora-based Liberians . . . Voice of Liberia, October 19, 2012).
Fabulous incomes, generated in Liberia through dishonest or corrupt practices from “marriage” of politics and economic activities (the nation’s systematic, controlled Political Economy), were and are being transferred out of Liberia to purchase and, indeed, purchased homes, maintain families and educate children in foreign countries, the simultaneous, second home-countries of these Liberian, dual citizens; they travel, very often, to and from these countries to which they owe exclusive allegiance, loyalty and patriotism, and in which they hold and maintain bank accounts.
C. Alien & Nationality Law
Until 1956 or more than a century (109 years) after declaration of political independence , there was no written law in Liberia for or against dual citizenship. As has been the case throughout our history, almost, all of our laws, indeed, the 1956, Liberian, Alien & Nationality Law was modeled on US, 1952 Law of similar title. This law was enacted not only because of Liberian, political/national infidelity and rampant dishonesty that gave rise to the nation’s continuous (up to this day), socio-economic and political under-development, but also because almost all other nations, including the United States, have adopted such legal conventions designed to protect and preserve the vital interests of the nation and its citizens. However, noting hypocrisy, disobedience and blatant violations of the new law, mainly, by prominent personalities and officials of the Liberian government, some of who were dual citizens, the 1956 law was amended and approved in 1973 to its present form, in order to provide specificity and diligent enforcement. After the 1980 Event, the 1986 Constitution followed with Article 28, reinforcing earlier prohibitions against dual citizenship
ULAA Group Dual Citizenship Argument in Liberia
In their press conference in Monrovia on Wednesday, May 9, 2013, the ULAA group stated that “nearly one-third of the membership of the Liberian Senate and several members of the House of Representatives have given their expressed consent to the repeal effort”.
However, we and the Liberian people are not surprised; in that, it had been reported, and is being reported, that the leadership of both Houses of the Liberian Legislature is dominated by dual citizens. In fact, there is a bill for dual citizenship pending before the Senate during the past 2-3 years, sponsored by Senior Senators, rumored to be dual citizens. This bill is dead, because it is not possible to survive a vigorous debate.
One of the planks of the ULAA-sponsored, Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference Resolutions is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Executive Order to be requested of the Nation’s President, by which She will “direct” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Consular Officers not only to lay off, “relax all stringent verification” of Liberian citizenship claims, including enforcement of the entire Alien & Nationality Law, a law duly passed, approved and in full force and effect that the President of the Republic is, under law, sworn and obligated to implement and enforce, but also to “issue Liberian passports and travel documents” to all alleged, “natural-born Liberians with alleged valid documentations that prove birth in Liberia”; provide Liberian passports to children born in foreign countries to Liberian parents, “whether or not such children are under (or have declared) oath of allegiance to foreign countries; and that the “Executive Order will remain in place (in full force and effect) until a new law is enacted”. In other words, the Executive Order from the President will:
Stop all lawful verification requirements of alleged, Liberian citizenship.
2. Direct issuance of Liberian passports to Liberians, although these Liberians are admitted and proven naturalized citizens of foreign countries, with exclusive oath of allegiance, loyalty and patriotism to these foreign countries.
3. Remain in force and effect pending repeal/enactment of the Alien & Nationality Law and, thereby, “relax, halt” or stop lawful enforcement of an existing law, passed and approved in 1873.
The problem with this approach is that not only that the “don’t ask-don’t tell” Executive Order, in this context, is improper and illegal and, an apparent, return to or reminiscent of the past “smoke-filled, closed-door, backroom, ‘political wheeling and dealing’, but also that the objectives indicated (1, 2 and 3 above) are, clearly, in violation of our law.
The Argument and implied question that other African countries Recognize Dual Citizenship; why not Liberia?
The ULAA group, now in Liberia, argue that “Black Americans, Ghanaians, Nigerians, British, Serra Leoneans . . . and several other nationalities can naturalize in Liberia without losing citizenship in their countries of origin”; implicitly, why not Liberia?
Simply because the Republic of Liberia is not the Republics of Ghana; La Cote d’Ivoire; Sierra Leone; Federal Republic of Nigeria, etc., etc.; all of these nations, including the Republic of Liberia, have peculiar characteristics – population, socio-cultural dynamics, education, information, economics, politics, military capability (national security), etc. – that differ from country to country and, upon which their laws are based, including requirements for naturalizations are made.
No nation may interfere with or determine who becomes or not, the citizen of another nation. Therefore, Liberia admits Black American, Ghanaians, Nigerians, British, Sierra Leoneans, South Africans, etc., etc. who apply for Liberian citizenship and satisfy Liberian, legal requirements, including exclusive oath of allegiance, not their country of origin.
The Liberian Senate Confirmation Hearings
The most important objective of the Senate Confirmation Hearings, involving Liberians who are alleged to be citizens of other states while “passing” as Liberian citizens or dual citizens, are concerned not only with academic and experiential qualifications, resolution of Liberia’s ‘brain-drain’ problem nor the economic development of Liberia, the ULAA argue, but also that the major objective for the Senate hearings is to determine, through rigorous, political and legal examination, whether or not, the given nominee possesses the requisite track record of progressive, national policy commitment, performance, loyalty, patriotism and above all, allegiance to the Republic. The answers to these questions are found, among others, by preponderance of evidence provided by the nominee’s faithful, loyal and patriotic citizenship of the Republic of Liberia; the others, such as age, academic training, experience, etc. are important, but of secondary considerations.
Now, our first question in this exercise is whether or not a Liberian citizen who willingly and consciously becomes a naturalized citizen of a foreign country retains his/her Liberian citizenship under law? To this question the answer is no; in that, one who is a citizen of one country and later, consciously and willingly, becomes the naturalized citizen of another, has renounced, denounced and rejected the allegiance , loyalty, and patriotism – a lawful duty – to his/her original country; therefore, such a person has lost his/her Liberian citizenship.
The second question is concerned with whether or not dual citizenship is legal in Liberia. The answer, again, is no. Implicitly, the Liberian Constitution (Article 28) provides that “Any person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the person’s birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia, provided that any such person shall, upon reaching maturity, renounce any other citizenship acquired by virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country”. Explicitly, the Alien & Nationality Law forbids dual citizenship. Unless, under International Law, as stated earlier, there is a treaty by and between the nations concerned.
Our third question is whether or not a Liberian who is a naturalized citizen of another country and, therefore, has lost his/her Liberian citizenship (now an alien) may engage in the political process and/or stand for and hold elective as well as appointive, public office. The answer is that such a Liberian, who, in fact, is an alien, is ineligible to:
1. Become a member of the Legislature (Article 30 of the Constitution).
2. Hold the offices of president and vice president (Article 52(a).
3. Become member of the judiciary (Articles 68(a) & 69(a).
4. Vote and engage in the political process (Article 77(b).
On the critical question of holding appointive, political office such as cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, the Liberian Constitution is conspicuously silent. The issue is left to the responsibility of the political authorities. Indeed, it is as much a political issue as it is a legal one, for all practical purposes. Importantly, it seems to us that Liberia’s political thinkers of today would be hard-pressed to justify the conclusion by the framers of our constitution – the men and women who made sure that non-Negroes were excluded from becoming citizens of Liberia during early 18th Century worldview, would leave open such a critical issue of profound, political implications as the appointment of non-citizens to high-profile, sensitive, political positions of trust in government.
In the light of these considerations, we are convinced that the framers of our constitution left the door open for the political process, now represented by the Liberian Senate confirmation hearings, to safeguard the national interest, consistent with the changed, changing, socio-economic and political conditions.
Indeed, during these days of international terrorism, rebellious & violent activities, ethnic conflicts, graft, greed and dishonest, public practices (corruption), it would be unwise, in fact, dangerous, to appoint and entrust the socio-economic, political health and security of the nation to an “alien” or dual citizen – a former Liberian who has renounced, denounced and rejected his/her allegiance/patriotism to the Republic by taking on, consciously and willingly, citizenship of another, foreign country.
Proponents of dual citizenship argue that past, Liberian governments have utilized the services of high-level officials who were dual citizens Similarly, some writers observed, in rather chilling, perceptive detail, the psycho-social impact that the Senate confirmation hearings would have upon rejected, Liberian dual citizen-nominees and the negative signals that such rejections would transmit to others in the Diaspora. We strongly disagree with and reject this simplistic analysis and conclusions of a rather complex, national issue.
Firstly, due to the absence or lack of prior, diligent verification of application claims, command and control, our nation is where it is today – a “failed state”, burden with socio-economic and political under-development, and secondly, because Liberia failed the process of democratic, political communities that thrive best and become successful under diligent observance and application of the rule of law.
Mr. Abraham G. Massaley, member of ULAA Group in Monrovia
One of the principal speakers at the ULAA Conference, Mr. Massaley’s idea of and approach to dual citizenship, among others, is and will be license for native (indigenous) Liberians to abandon their country, in droves, in search of the proverbial “green pastures” in foreign countries, in response to his argument that “opportunities for investments, real estate development, employment, education, etc, are limited in Liberia”. The fact of this matter is that in this country, with sparsely-populated, less than 4 million people, there is more land than there are people.
More importantly, as a tropical country with a history of agriculture as traditional, economic activity, there are tremendous opportunities for investment in food production, not only to provide food security in Liberia, but also for export trade. We can grow, produce and process for local consumption and export, such tropical food products as rice, corn, cassava, yams, potatoes, plantain, banana, eddoes, palm oil, corn oil, processed palm butter, bitter balls, eggplant, pawpaw, cabbage, cucumber, onions, peanuts/peanut butter, leaf lettuce, processed cassava leaves, potato leaves, collard greens, palava sauce, fish and fish farming, raise goats, cows, cocoa, coffee, poultry/poultry products, etc., etc. The enterprising, educated, energetic, idealistic, dedicated young and old Liberians can/must take a lesson from neighboring La Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana for cocoa & coffee production and export.
Moreover, our country is endowed, relatively, with more than its share of natural resources – a land of rich soil, lush greenery, adequate, daily sunlight energy, rainfall, rivers and streams with several species of fish, etc., etc. But we must and have to claim this land of many opportunities and possibilities, not wait for government initiatives or foreign entrepreneurs; neither can we transform Liberia’s economy for the benefit of Liberians by remote pontifications from faraway, foreign countries. The People’s Republic of China, one of the rising or risen stars of world economic and scientific innovations, including such countries as Japan and India that rival the USA, were poor, under-developed nations like us, just some 50 years ago.
No, abandoning our country to take refuge in the comfort of developed, foreign countries, built by hard work and sacrifices of others, is not a reasonable approach, will not resolve the problem of “limited opportunities” nor reduce and eventually eliminate poverty, hunger and illiteracy, etc., but will exacerbate and deepen our socio-economic and political malaise.
With dual citizenship adopted, Liberia could and very well sink deeper and deeper in and experience what Miss Robtel Pailey described eloquently as “one only has to peak in the doors of our major concession negotiations, our policy meetings at the highest levels or our posh restaurants/bars/clubs/entertainment centers to see who actually wields political, economic and social power” in Liberia – “non-black, non-African nationals” in unholy alliances with some high-profiled, political leaders/dual citizens, powerful elites (Pailey, Commentary on The Negro Clause, FPA, October 22, 2012).
Therefore, dual citizenship should not and must not be recognized and adopted in Liberia.
Bai M. Gbala, Sr., Senior Member, Grand Gedeh County Council of Elders