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Dual Citizenship Bill: Agreeing With Foreign Minister, But…

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The issue of dual citizenship as requested by Diaspora Liberians, especially those in the United States, for passage into law by the Liberian Legislature appears to be unending. Even though Members of the Legislature are currently on their “Agriculture Break”, proponents of the dual citizenship bill continue to exert all efforts to win support for the passage of the bill despite vehement opposition from some influential members of the Liberian Senate.

In pursuant of this goal, the 39th Assembly of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas or ULAA recently hosted the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine K. Ngafuan in the State of Ohio. In his address to the Assembly, the Liberian Foreign Minister emphasized the need to proceed in, what  she referred to as, a pragmatic manner  by immediately passing what was “palatable and less controversial”- an  apparent reference to the dual citizenship Bill.

According to him, the acquisition of dual citizens as viewed by many Liberians was a means of facilitating the relocation their relatives to other countries so as to pursue a better living. According to the Foreign Minister many Liberians with dual citizenship possess valuable skills that could be harnessed in reducing the vast skills deficit in post-conflict Liberia. He, however, said that the country may not have the opportunity of benefitting from their skills merely because they are considered foreigners.

“While some have brought home much needed expertise and contacts and have diligently and honestly worked for the forward movement of our dear country, others have behaved arrogantly and engaged in unsavory and unwholesome practices that have only compounded the local antipathy towards dual citizenship,” Ngafuan told his Diaspora audience in Ohio, stressing that in spite of these and numerous other concerns harbored by opponents of dual citizenship, it was unfair to look at someone born and bred 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.

While the opinion of the Foreign Minister as expressed before the membership of ULAA in the United States may be genuine, especially in the position he finds himself, the hard sentiments on dual citizenship as expressed by most Liberians, including some Members of the Legislature, must not only be considered an “arrogant behavior” towards proponents of the bill, but one that requires a realistic approach in the interest of all Liberians.

To the knowledge of the Minister and many of us, most Liberians at home continue to harbor the belief that the backwardness of our country’s socio-economic and infrastructural development is the direct result of the immeasurable capita flight out of Liberia perpetrated by our compatriots who had one way or the other been and continue to be connected with the Diaspora, especially the United States through citizenship or permanent residency. These Liberians also believe that their unfair treatment and poor relationships at work places in the process of amassing such financial wealth for their personal development and sustainability abroad, thus suppressing Liberia’s growth, is a tangible justification of their resistance to the passage of the dual citizenship bill into law by the Liberia Legislature.

In as much as they do appreciate the regular and larger remittances of funds to relatives and friends back home, remittances back to the United States by Liberian public official and others from years back to present may just be far beyond those wired to Liberia – anyway, that should not even be the argument. What is most important is the issue of loyalty as also expressed by some Liberians.

In our own thinking as it relates to conflict of interest and divided loyalty in the debate, we do subscribe to the opinion of Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan that as it is being done in other countries, so should it be applied to our situation, wherein Liberians with dual citizenship be ineligible to hold certain positions in the government such as President, Vice President, Members of the Legislature, Chief Justice, Associate Justices and Judges of Lower Courts, Cabinet Ministers and Deputies, as well as Heads of Autonomous Agencies and Bureau, among others .

Perhaps, including such clause in the Dual Citizenship Bill, now before the Liberian Legislature (on recess) would somehow allay the fears harbored by most Liberians against this bill for “smooth landing”.

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