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Liberian academic launches book on dual citizenship

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Young Liberian academic Dr. RobtelNeajaiPailey has launched a book in Monrovia on Development, (Dual) Citizenship and Its Discontents in Africa: The Political Economy of Belonging to Liberia.

Launching the book in the auditorium of the University of Liberia (UL) Thursday, 7 January on Capitol Hill, Dr. Pailey, an activist and author with years of professional and personal experiences in Africa, Europe and North America, said this research started in Liberia and it was written by a Liberian for Liberians.

Even though she’s based in London, the United Kingdom, Dr. Pailey says she was determined to ensure that the actual launch of her book would be done on Liberian soil.

An edition of the the University of Liberia’s intellectual platform Lux Talk was used for the launching of the book graced by several officials including Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, Lofa County Senator – elect Brownie J. Samukai, UL Vice President for Graduate Programs Dr. Jonathan Taylor and others.

While acknowledging that dual citizenship is inevitable in Liberia given the continental trend, Dr. Pailey recommends however that Liberia needs to take a gradual approach to dual citizenship.

She thinks that because of continental and regional pressures, Liberia will eventually get dual citizenship, but it’s going to take some time.

In the book, she says she argues that there are a number of policy prescriptions that the government can take on, first of which is to reconcile the contradiction between the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law and the 1986 Constitution in respect to who’s eligible for citizenship in Liberia.

Also she says Liberia needs to focus on reforming the Judiciary because one of the main reasons many Liberians reject dual citizenship is that they fear that people who have two passports or two citizenships will be able to flout the laws, disobey the laws and then leave the country without the possibility for the authorities here to extradite them.

“And that happened before in the past, and they have this sort of … experience of that happening, and they’re [afraid] for [that] and I think that fear is legitimate,” she says.

Dr. Pailey indicates that reforming the judiciary, making sure that laws are actually enforced will give people the confidence to consider introducing and endorsing dual citizenship.

Another thing she believes must be addressed is the inequality in Liberia, including income inequality, land access and transitional justice, among others.

Talking about the originality, importance of the book and what contribution it might make, Dr. Pailey says the book is about the continent of Africa, but it’s specifically a case study on Liberia.

She suggests that this is the first study that actually looks at both domestic and diaspora construction and practices of citizenship across space and time.

Looking at what the construction and practices of citizenship across space and time mean for development, she says She says the first of her three major arguments in the book is that in the mid 19th to mid 20th century, the Liberian citizenship was passive and constructed by a very powerful state.

On the other hand, she says in the mid 20th century Liberian citizenship onward has been active reconstructed by citizens themselves through processes of protests and events like the rice riot, armed conflicts.

In her second argument, she notes that the 21st century Liberia is one of seven countries (Cameroon, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Tanzania) in the continent of Africa that do not recognize dual citizenship.

On the third argument, she says domestic and diaspora Liberians really interpret and understand citizenship and dual citizenship differently.

In the book she says she talks about the fact that quite often scholars’ work or maybe in the public discourse in Liberian there is an underlying assumption that dual citizenship leads to development, but notes that this assumption actually isn’t true.

She argues that there are a number of scholars who refute this claim and suggest that there’s no relationship and there’s “no empirical evidence to support those claims” that dual citizenship leads to development.

“And this is why dual citizenship is so visually contested in Liberia right, because many Liberians in country believe that dual citizenship will reproduce, make sure that inequality prevails,” she says.

She says many Liberians believe that dual citizenship will increase development, but again there is no empirical evidence to support the claim. In a welcome statement earlier, UL President Rev. Dr. Julius JulukonSarwolo Nelson said the university celebrates academic excellence.

He adds that the university celebrates Dr. Pailey for her work and scholarship, adding that he looks forward to the reflection of her book.

“As we journey for 2021, we at the university will continue to pray for academic excellence, scholarship , good health, prosperity, partnership, peace, unity, togetherness, justice, reconciliation, sustainable development at the University of Liberia, the nation’s premier institution of higher learning …,” he says.

In celebration of the launching of the book, Dr. Nelson announces that 15 of its copies were being purchased by the University of Liberia, as Dr. Pailey adds five copies to the number being purchased by UL. The book costs US$50.00.

By Winston W. Parley

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