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Foreign Minister Ngafuan Position on Dual Citizenship

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In his keynote address (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release, September 23, 2013) to the 39th Assembly of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, Inc. (ULAA), the Honorable Agustine Ngafuan, Liberia’s Foreign Minister, told the US/Diaspora-based   proponents/advocates of Dual Citizenship in Liberia, that “it is time to proceed, in . . . a pragmatic manner, by immediately passing what is palatable and less controversial (bill)” and that “. . . Liberia needs to take on the most difficult provisions in the dual citizenship package and pass them . . . as was done in Ghana and many other African countries that have (in fact) dual citizenship regimes”.

According to this approach, the Minister told the Assembly that Liberia should and must “provide for dual citizenship in the statutes, but explicitly state that, for certain positions, no one with dual citizenship is eligible. In Ghana, for example, . . . such positions as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ambassador, Chief of Defense Staff of the Armed Forces (Chief of Staff in Liberia), Inspector General of Police (Director of Police in Liberia), Director of Immigration (Commissioner of Immigration in Liberia), Chief Deputy of a Ministry (Deputy Minister for Administration in Liberia) and many others that cannot (may not) be occupied by anyone who possesses dual citizenship”.

“Wants Passage of Palatable & Less Controversial” Bill

The Foreign Minister observed, also, that “it was unfair to look at someone born in a Liberian village or city and call them alien or foreigner just because they once upon a time assumed the citizenship of another country”.

The Dual Citizenship Debate

Indeed, this debate has been and is, relatively, heated, passionate, sometimes personal and controversial. Like all other issues of politics that are concerned with individual/collective interests, and depending upon whose arguments are at play, this debate is a reasonable expectation. However, our argument in opposition to dual citizenship, profoundly passionate, but cordial, utilizes human reason/logic, grounded on law (legal obligations/responsibilities of citizen/citizenship), nationalism (the virtues of loyalty/patriotism) and the critical facts of the history of dual citizenship in our country, perspectives that are critical to the survival of our, Liberian, nation.

Indeed, as the leading, on-ground opposition to dual citizenship as proposed by our foreign-based compatriots, we are cautiously hopeful and deeply encouraged by Foreign Minister Ngafuan’s proposal made to ULAA, because that proposal “is (or was) informed largely by their (proponents’ & opponents’) various perspectives” and the fact that the Minister’s proposal is based, essentially, on perspectives that are common to our argument – “conflict of interest (economics) and divided loyalty (patriotism & loyalty to whom, politics of nationalism), and extradition . . . “.

What, briefly, are these Perspectives?

A. Citizen/Citizenship

The history of citizenship, we argue, is a description of the changing relationships 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 of ideas and socio-political events (the French and US Revolutions, etc.).

Throughout human history, the term “citizenship” described and denotes the relationship between the individual and the organized, political community of individuals, the social state. That relationship is, in fact, an agreement, Social Contract with “terms and conditions” that defined mutually-binding obligations/responsibilities – the state to the citizen and the citizen to the state.  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 (for civil disasters and military conflicts, socio-economic, political and security) that are so very important that they (obligations) 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; of the notions of loyalty, allegiance and patriotism; of socio-cultural principles and values; and of the sense of national belonging, individual/collective, national identity, unity and security.

B. The terms “Liberian” & “citizenship”

The celebrated argument for dual citizenship in Liberia has been given a “legal” lease-on-life by the Counselor-at-Law & Chairman of the ruling Unity Party, Cllr. Varney Sherman, when he declared his “Once-a-Liberian (apparently born on Liberian soil), always-a-Liberian” thesis, a natural birthright that is, according to the Counselor and supporters, a citizenship right.

However, the term “Liberian” is an identity, a birthright ordained by nature that cannot be taken away  by the social state, because it is NOT given by the state; whereas, “citizenship” is a condition created, given or awarded by individuals organized in a political community or state, to any individual, now citizen, in consideration of the fulfillment of the required terms and conditions of the political community or state. Thus, citizenship can and may be withdrawn or rejected by the state for cause.  For example, an individual is a Liberian because he/she was born on Liberian soil (jos soli, in legal terms) and may be a citizen of another, foreign country, or born on the soil of a foreign country but may be a citizen of Liberia. Therefore, the argument, “once-a-Liberian, always-a-Liberian” is true only in birthright identification/claims, NOT citizenship and its attendant rights.

C. Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship, unfortunately illegal dual citizenship, is not new in Liberia. Characterized by political infidelity to the Liberian nation and public/private dishonesty or corruption, dual citizenship has been in practice in Liberia since the days of founding of the nation in 1847. Almost all government officials, their families and related, socio-economic classes were (and some are, today) 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 salaries and related incomes, generated in Liberia through dishonest or corrupt practices from “marriage” of politics and economics through which dual citizens controlled and dominated, continue to control and dominate, the nation’s political economy, were and are being transferred out of Liberia to purchase and 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 fat, bank accounts.

Since 1847 and throughout the history of Liberia, governance and public administration have remained highly centralized and controlled by institutions and structures of the central state dominated and controlled by dual citizens, a practice which has not allowed adequate opportunities for the establishment of a system of participatory local governance. These conditions have slowed down Liberia’s overall economic growth and development and democratization process, leading to underinvestment in human resources and human, socio-economic well-being throughout the Republic. Moreover, Dual citizenship:

1. Is a profound and clear violation, by dual citizens, of the basic, fundamental, binding, lawful obligations – “terms & conditions” – of the social contract relationship.

2. Because the notion of dual citizenship carries with it the responsibility/obligation of exclusively loyalty to a single country at a given time, the concept (of dual citizenship) raises questions about which of the dual citizenships has priority. This question is extremely important; in that, in the event that the two countries have opposing interests – a fact which, very often, has been the case, especially during these times of numerous, worldwide conflicts – this can be a deadly problem when and where a dual citizen is in a highly-sensitive, policy-making position of government. Take, for example, a dual citizen as minister of National Defense, Foreign Affairs, Director, national Security Agency or Ministers and principal Deputies & Agencies of government, including chief executives, deputies, boards of directors and chairpersons of state-owned enterprises.

E. The Law

1. 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 is 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. That Law is as comprehensive, a legal treatment, at that time, as may be expected from Liberia, a developing country with limited resources and expertise, such that updating, by amendments, on the basis of changing/changed socio-economic and political conditions is not unexpected.

2. The Constitution of 1980

After the 1980 Event, the 1986 Constitution followed with Article 28, reinforcing, implicitly, earlier prohibitions against dual citizenship explicitly forbidden by the Alien & Nationality Law.  According to the following constitutional provisions a Liberian who is a naturalized citizen of another country and, therefore, has lost his/her Liberian citizenship (now an alien) may not engage in the political process and/or stand for and hold elective as well as appointive, public office.  Such Liberian who, in fact, is an alien, is ineligible to:

a). Become a member of the Legislature (Article 30 of the Constitution)
b). Hold the offices of president and vice president (Article 52(a)
c). Become member of the judiciary (Articles 68(a) & 69(a)
d). 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, apparently, left to the responsibility of the political authorities for resolution.  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. But this approach has not been justified because there are known dual citizens in all branches of government, including the national Legislature, a flagrant violation of the constitution and almost all state-owned enterprises.

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.

Conclusion

Finally, Mr. & Mrs. Liberia, with dual citizenship adopted, Liberia could,  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 or adopted in Liberia.

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