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Finding True Meaning of Article 52(c) of the Constitution

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaAll that is required to be President or Vice-President of Liberia is: (1) being a natural born citizen 35 years or more, (2) 10 years residence in Liberia 10 years prior to elections; (3) owner of unencumbered real property worth not less than 25,000; and (4) President and Vice-President must not come from the same county.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING?
Finding the true meaning of Article 52(c) of the Liberian Constitution

Article 52(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia states that “[N]o person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice-President, unless that person is a resident in the Republic ten year prior to his election, provided that the President and Vice-President shall not come from the same county.”  Much has been debated about the eligibility of several of the major Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates in the upcoming October 11th Liberian elections to hold the office of President and Vice-President.

The issue of concern is whether Article 52(c) of Liberian Constitution implicitly states that a candidate for President or Vice-President must have resided in Liberia 10 years immediately preceding his or her election. However, the intent of the framers of Constitution, which is that continuous presence of 10 years immediately preceding elections is not required, is apparent when Article 52(c) is compared with Article 30(b) of the Liberian Constitution.

Article 30 of the Liberian Constitution governs the eligibility requirements to become a member of the Liberian legislature.  Article 30(b) states that in order to become a member of the Liberian legislature, a person, among other things, must be domicile in the county or constituency to be represented not less than one year prior to the time of the election and be a taxpayer.

Residence refers to the place of a person’s general abode or his or her actual dwelling place, without regards to the person’s intent.  Domicile, as defined in Blacks Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, is a person’s legal home. The place of his or her true, fixed, and permanent home to which whenever he or she is absent has the intent of returning.  A person may have more than one residence but only one domicile.

If the framers and drafters of the Liberian Constitution intended to restrict the President’s or Vice-President’s eligibility to hold office by requiring residence in Liberia 10 years immediately preceding the elections, they would have explicitly stated so. Why? Because the framers explicitly stated in Article 30(b), the residency requirements for the Liberian legislators, which is: (1) domicile in the county or constituency one year prior to elections and (2) be a taxpayer.  It is clear that the framers intended to impose strict residency requirements for those seeking to become lawmakers in Liberia .

On the other hand, the framers liberally drafted the President and Vice-President’s residency requirements.  Furthermore, the framers did not even include any provision that the candidates of President or Vice-President be a taxpayer as they did in Article 30(b).  Although, it can be assumed that the owner of real property in Liberia would have paid taxes to the Government of Liberia.

All that is required to be President or Vice-President of Liberia is: (1) being a natural born citizen 35 years or more, (2) 10 years residence in Liberia 10 years prior to elections; (3) owner of unencumbered real property worth not less than 25,000; and (4) President and Vice-President must not come from the same county.

While the current debate about the residency requirements of Article 52(c) is legally and intellectually stimulating, the interpretation that Article 52(c) bars the major Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates such as President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Counsellors Charles Brumskine and Winston Tubman, and Ambassador George Weah, is much ado about nothing.  Article 52(c) does not mandate that candidates reside in Liberia 10 years immediately preceding the elections.  We must now focus on more and important issues affecting Liberians and our nation.  Good luck to the all the candidates. In Union Strong Success is Sure..!
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Edward W. Neufville, III, a Liberian citizen, practices immigration and transnational law in the United States . He can be reached via email at Edward@neufvillelaw.com

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