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Special Feature

“In Support of Dual Citizenship in Liberia”-Zinnah: A Response

P e r s p e c t I v e s
Public Policy . Economics . Democratic Politics . Political/Economic Decentralization . Public Dishonesty . Dual Citizenship

March 2, 2015

Mr. Sam K. Zinnah, an advocate for Dual Citizenship in Liberia,  writes ((FrontPageAfricaonline, February 17, 2015) that “During the many years of armed violence . . .  in our Nation (Liberia), more than 250,000 of . . . Liberians lost their lives, the Nation’s economy and infrastructure . . . were damaged, and more than 900,000 Liberians . . . were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in other countries. As time past . . . an appreciable number of  . . . Liberians settled in economically advanced countries, and gave birth to thousands of children in their host countries; got married to citizens . . . and became naturalized citizens of their host countries; took military and other employments in their host countries, acquired skills and expertise in various sectors”, and argues further that:

“The international trend is increasingly moving toward permitting dual citizenship, as countries recognize the reality of . . . globalization, technological advancements, and the immense benefits of non-resident citizens travelling, living, and working abroad”; 

“Presently more than 150 countries, including African countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda – officially permit dual citizenship in some form . . . When will Africa’s oldest independent republic, which is recovering from years of armed violence and persecution . . . has a large, active, and productive Diaspora population, officially recognize the reality and immense benefits of its citizens having dual citizenship?”;

“As we work to transform our Nation from a post-conflict status into a stable, prosperous, and leading democracy . . . one of the best ways . . .  is for this Honorable Legislature to pass legislation that officially permits Liberians to have dual citizenship . . .”; 

 And that, “According to UNMIL statistics, there are about 450,000 Liberians . . . in the USA and Canada . . . 250,000 . . . in Western Europe, and hundreds of thousands . . . in West Africa and other parts of the world . . . World Bank and other sources show that . . . Liberians, . . . in the USA, Canada and Western Europe, send more than $55 million US dollars and goods-in-kind, annually, to families and friends in Liberia . . . that benefit between a quarter and a third of the Liberian population”.

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And in her Annual Message delivered on January 26, 2015, President Ellen Johnson said, “Honorable Legislators, we will once again ask your consideration of the Act to permit dual citizenship which enables our citizens who are compelled to seek refuge in other countries to become more active participants in the process of nation building”.

Although Mr. Sam Zinnah breaks no new grounds, in terms of validated evidence in support of Dual Citizenship in Liberia, his argument claims our attention because it comes on the court-tails of the President’s call for adoption (President’s Annual Message, Janary 26, 2015) of a   dual citizenship bill pending before the Senate, perhaps, in support of the old Draft of Dual Citizenship Bill introduced some 6-7 years ago by Senior Senators Cletus Wotorson (Grand Kru County), Jewel Howard-Taylor (Bong County), the-now defeated Sumo Kupee (Lofa County) and, also, defeated Abel Massaley (Grand Cape Mount County), and other, leading, Liberian politicians. Most or some of these senior senators were/are, apparently, dual citizens.

Like all others before him, Mr. Zinnah’s, argument is an apparent challenge of one (Citizenship) of the two, most important, pillars of Political Philosophy (The State & Citizenship), although with un-supported threat to the concept of citizenship, but at a time when General/Presidential Elections, for 2017, are just around the corner.

Dual Citizens & Dual Citizenship in Liberia

While it may be argued, and is true, that dual citizens and dual citizenship had been, and are in Liberia today, but records show that the practice had been declared illegal and banned, tacitly, implicitly, prior to 1973, explicitly thereafter (Alien & Nationality Act) and affirmed in recent times (Article 28, 1986 Constitution of Liberia) because of rampant acts of disloyalty by dual citizens who dominated and controlled the government, politics and economy of Liberia and, thereby, reduced the nation to a failed, non-functional state, caught in the claws of social, economic and political under-development. That this prevailing condition is so self-evident – all around us in the towns, villages and cities that are over-crowded, crime-ridden with drug abuse, etc., and lack of transport/communications, information/education, etc. –  that it needs no proof.

Our Response

Mr. Zinnah lists, as reasons “in support of adoption of dual citizenship in Liberia”,  flight from war political persecutions due to our recent, nightmare of the civil war; academic/professional, training/experience (expertise) acquired in advanced/developed countries; birth/marriage rights;   and that “more than 150 countries, including (our) African countries” have adopted dual citizenship; therefore, the Republic of Liberia, a sovereign, independent State, should and must adopt dual citizenship. These are the same themes, similarly advanced by Diaspora Liberians based in the USA, Canada and Western Europe, led by the Union of Liberian Associations (ULAA) in the USA and related others, major proponents of dual citizenship in Liberia:
1.Flight from War & Political Persecution
We admit, and agree, that the Liberian Political Economy and its derivatives, dominated and controlled by dual citizens and the devastating nightmare of the civil war bear responsibility for the massive, unprecedented exodus of Liberians into foreign countries and acquired, voluntarily, naturalized citizenships of these countries (George Kieh, Making The Case . . . 2012).  During or in the absence of these conditions, any Liberian citizen, according to Liberian law, is free to change his/her Liberian citizenship by acquiring any foreign citizenship, but may not claim, simultaneously, both Liberian and foreign citizenships – dual citizenship – an act which is in violation of Section 22.1 of the Liberian, Alien & Nationality Law and Article 28 of the 1986, Liberian Constitution. Flight from war or political persecution is not a valid, legal argument for dual citizenship under Liberian law, while a reasonable, personal decision.

2. Professional training/expertise acquired in Advanced/Developed, foreign Countries
While academic, professional training/expertise is an appreciated, added benefit, it is not a requirement for Liberian citizenship. It is not required, nor is it a necessity to be Liberian dual citizen to invest in Liberian development, even in the case of former, Liberian citizens.

Because citizenship or nationality requires responsibilities/obligations and exclusive loyalty/allegiance/patriotism to a single country at a time and period, the concept of dual citizenship raises questions about which of the dual citizenships has priority. The questions are extremely important; in that, in the event that the two countries have opposing interests (which, more often than not, has been the case, especially, during these times of numerous, worldwide conflicts) dual citizenship can be a deadly problem when and where a dual citizen is in a high, sensitive, strategic, public policy position, such as: National Defense & Security; National Legislature; The Judiciary; Ministries and Agencies of Government; revenue-generating, state-owned Enterprises; National Elections Commission, positions in which exclusive allegiance/patriotism is an absolute requirement.

Moreover, clearly, there are trained/experienced professionals and technocrats in the Diaspora who constitute a pool of skilled, former Liberian citizens. However, it does not follow, necessarily, that these “Liberians” are eager and ready to return home, divest themselves of foreign citizenships (reportedly forced to acquire) and benefit Liberia in its social, economic and political development. Further, research shows that the leadership of the hardcore proponents of dual citizenship in Liberia is a very few, former Liberian citizens, and that most of these “Liberians” are middle/upper-class – academics, university professors, lawyers, engineers, doctors, business managers, IT professionals, etc., whose expertise is in demand here, at home, and will be appreciated.

But some have been, and are, living out of Liberia for, almost, more than 15-20 years in search of the proverbial green pastures; they have invested in suburban homes, retirement income and, with families, live comfortably, permanently under sworn, “exclusive” allegiance to foreign countries. The intent had been, and is, that Liberia is suitable for exploitation, using their education, training/experience and dual citizenship as protection against prosecution for alleged stealing of state resources. Cases in point: the celebrated case of Ellen Corkrum/Melvin Johnson and the “Philadelphia Boys”, now back in Philadelphia and elsewhere, USA.

3. Birth, Citizenship & Marriage Rights
Because of the critical nature of the issues concerned, it is necessary to provide background information regarding the derivations of the terms – “Birth Rights”, “Citizen”, “Citizenship” and “Marriage Rights”.

Births, throughout human history and during the state of nature had been ordained by and from nature or God, as they are today. Births were not rights, because there were no rights, obligations and responsibilities during the state of nature. As acts of nature, births were and are above and beyond the ability of individuals in the state of nature as well as human, organized society to affect – change or regulate in terms of parentage, kinship, ethnic/tribal relationship. However, after human emancipation from the State of Nature to organized society or the Social State, notions equating Place of Births and Parentage to Citizenship Rights were born:  

Jus Soli (Latin for right of the soil) is the right of any individual, born in the territory of a state, to nationality or citizenship of that state. Jus soli provides an unconditional basis for citizenship, predominantly practiced in the Americas, but rare elsewhere in the international world. Since the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was enacted in 2004, no European country grants citizenship based on unconditional jus soli.  A study in 2010 found that only 30 of the world’s 194 countries grant citizenship at birth to the children of undocumented foreign residents, although definitive information was not available from 19 countries. Some countries which formerly observed jus soli have moved to abolish it entirely, conferring citizenship on children born in the country only if one of the parents is a citizen of that country.

Jus Sanguinis (also Latin for right of blood) is a grant of citizenship at birth based upon the principle (right of blood) in which citizenship is inherited through parents, not by place of birth. In almost all European states, Asia, Africa and Oceania grant citizenship at birth based on blood relationship. At one time, jus sanguinis (right of blood) was the sole means of determining nationality in Europe (where it is still widespread in Central and Eastern Europe) and Asia. An individual belonged to a family, a tribe or a people, not to a territory. This was a basic tenet of Roman law.  Lex soli is a law used in practice to regulate who, and under defined, acceptable circumstances, an individual can assert the right of jus soli. Most states provide a specific lex soli, in application of the respective jus soli, and it is the most common means of acquiring nationality. A frequent exception to lex soli is imposed when a child was born to a parent in the diplomatic or consular service of another state, on a mission to the state in question.
Marriage Citizenship rights are treated clearly by the Alien & Nationality Law and the Liberian Constitution, applicable under Liberian Law.

4. Citizen, Citizenship & Rights
The terms “citizen” and “citizenship” are creations of organized society, or the Social State, after human emancipation from the State of Nature. A Citizen is member of an organized political community, the Social State, who is entitled to rights and privileges, with obligations and responsibilities, also creations of the social state, based upon defined, mutually-binding terms and conditions, developed, provided, controlled and administered by the Social State (The Social Contract).

Citizenship – the state or condition of being a citizen – also describes the changing relationships (the Social Contract) between the individual, the citizen, and the political community, the Social State, with respect to governing conditions – rights, privileges, obligations and responsibilities of the citizen to the state and of the state to the citizen. This mode of relationship, according to history, dates from the days of ancient, Greek city-states to our modern times; however, there are critical conditions of citizenship that, over time, remain constant and immutable; that citizenship is a bond that extends beyond kinship ties but unites people of different genetic backgrounds; that is, it is more than just a clan or extended network of kinship. 

Fundamentally, citizenship is characterized by and rests on the foundation of “Love-of-country” – loyalty, allegiance and patriotism, and other, related, lawful obligations of the citizen to the state, and the state to the citizen. We argue, therefore, that dual citizenship has no place in Liberia, because it is a patent violation of all required obligations/responsibilities of a loyal, patriotic citizen.

5. Other, 150 + Countries & Historical Change
Other Countries
Nations are like individuals who are unlike and unequal in their natural endowments, unequal in their mental and physical abilities and dissimilar in earthly locations; therefore, their needs and desires for socio-economic well-being, etc. are dissimilar.  In the specific context of nations, the critical issues are much more dangerous, life-threatening and profoundly demanding; they include socio-cultural homogeneity, education, information, politics, economics, technological development, national unity and security protection (military capability), etc. For these reasons, sovereign, independent and internationally-recognized nations enact and enforce domestic laws, based on these factors, and pursue socio-economic and political plans, programs and policies, designed to promote, protect or defend their peculiar needs.

Historical Change & Dual Citizenship
Furthermore, Laws are made with provision for amendment/repeal in the event of historical change that may affect the basis for making, passing a given law. That is, socio-cultural change in life-styles due to technological advancement, education/information, instant travel, population movement/migration, and political/economic development, all facts of human history which influence these conditions necessary for amendment/repeal of law.

In the case of Dual Citizenship in Liberia, our laws were made and passed to guard against Political Infidelity – disloyalty to the nation – and public dishonesty (corruption) in government. Also, the laws were made to promote and encourage self-reliance – research and development, with commitment and dedication, for planning and establishment of production entities with emphasis on production of goods & services for local and export demand/consumption; and for transport/communications nationwide, etc.

In all of this, the facts of our past, recent past history, and prevailing activities show painful opposites. Not only of our excessive demand for and dangerous dependence on consumption of imported goods & services, but also that few (less than 3% of the population) illegal dual citizens who constituted, now constitute, the ruling, political class dominated and controlled, continue to dominate and control, currently, the political economy, politics and government of Liberia; that, almost, all leading personalities in government – heads and deputy heads of all revenue-generating, state-owned enterprises – are illegal dual citizens; that there had been, and is widespread, seemingly, uncontrolled disloyalty; that there had been, and is, also, massive public dishonesty (corruption, “public enemy #1”) in Liberia; that Liberia imports much, much more than it exports; and that the painful results had been, and are, that Liberia imports and  eats  more rice and cooking oil (national staples) than it produces, although there is more land in Liberia than there are people. In this way, the domination and control of Liberia’s political economy by illegal Dual Citizens under illegal dual citizenship brought the nation, Liberia, under the prevailing socio-economic and political under-development.

Therefore, given these grim facts, circumstances and conditions, there is absolute need to   amend/strengthen and enforce, not weaken/repeal, the laws against illegal Dual Citizens & illegal Dual Citizenship.

Concluding Note
We deem it a patriotic duty and responsibility to include this Note, relevant for information.

Our mentor, major, all-time benefactor from which we borrowed, almost, all of our laws; on whose socio-economic and political organization/management systems ours are modeled and, perhaps, the greatest economically-, technologically-developed nation on this planet, with massive academic, intellectual and diplomatic skills/resource-storehouse – the  United States of America – is caught and entangled in a national/international, political, economic and diplomatic tussle, as the direct result of a deadly web of activities of individuals who are citizens of the United States  and, simultaneously, citizens of foreign countries, with sworn, “exclusive” allegiance to both – dual citizens. These individuals had been and are placed in sensitive, strategic positions in, almost, all sectors of the US government; they dominate and control significant part of the US political and economic activities and influence US foreign and domestic policies.  Today, the USA is involved in a frantic effort to extricate itself from being drawn into another costly, deadly Iraqi- or Afghan-type military adventure; this time, find a way out of possible nuclear confrontation with some developing/developed nations. All of this effort because of acts by dual citizens who swore “exclusive” allegiance to two sovereign states at the same time, the USA and a foreign country!!!

In our case – a small nation with an overwhelming majority of its body politic relatively, un-informed, lives in “abject poverty, hunger and disease”, and now the Ebola Crisis, with abundant evidence of illegal dual citizen domination and control of the nation’s political economy, there is absolute need that Liberians learn, must learn to benefit from the US experience.

With Bai M. Gbala, Sr.

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