(A) Argument for Repeal of the Negro Clause, Article 27(b)
The most important basis, in legal, political and logical terms, for Repeal of Article 27(b) of the Liberian Constitution for the granting of Liberian citizenship to non-Negro nationals resident in Liberia who satisfy all legal requirements without consideration of national origin, race, creed, gender and sexual preference, lies in socio-political change, consistent with changed and changing conceptions of political thought and practice, with respect to current conditions and the realities regarding race, nationality, tribe & ethnicity, gender, respect for and observance of human, civil, and political rights.
During the days when our Country, Liberia, was founded by freed, Negro slaves, men and women who fled from racism, injustice, brutality and death, there was no one who cared enough to dare and challenge the established socio-political power on behalf of the disadvantaged – the poor, the weak and racial minorities – whose inalienable rights were routinely abused and denied with impunity. Indeed, there was no League of Nations or the United Nations to which one may or could appeal for redress.
Under those conditions, it was reasonable, indeed mandatory, to close their national borders and doors to the enslaving, non-democratic class – non-negro people of the west who routinely and systematically brutalized and denied Liberians, of the Negro race, their socio-political and inalienable rights – from becoming citizens of the new nation of freed Negro slaves, for fear that the non-negro race might gain socio-political control and, again, enslave and persecute its citizens, having been freed from servitude and human bondage, achieved political independence with statehood and national sovereignty.
However, time, socio-political thought, practice and conditions have changed dramatically; therefore, socio-political thought and practice must, inevitably, change correspondingly with the prevailing realities of the day; so it had been throughout human history and is likely to be henceforth. For, the Liberian Nation of freed, Negro slaves, has now become the high-profile, internationally-recognized, founding member of the United Nations and a participating actor on the world stage, in this age of democratic pluralism, human, civil and political rights of all peoples. It was in this light that noting the Apartheid Policy of the Republic of South Africa, brutally practiced against the Negro Republic of Namibia, then under its trusteeship, the Liberian State took legal action against that nation (Republic of South Africa) in the International Court of Justice, for Racial Segregation and the Denial of Basic Civil & Human Rights as the core of that policy.
Moreover, Article 27(b) of our Constitution is in patent violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the Republic of Liberia, a founding, member-state, is a willing, voluntary signatory.
Given these contemporary developments in universal, political thought and conventional practice, particularly, as founding, member-state of the United nations and a willing signatory to the UN Charter that forbids discrimination/segregation on the basis of gender, race, color, creed and national origin, how, then does the Republic of Liberia explain our laws and policy action against persons of non-Negro race seeking justice and equality under the Rule of Law for the protection of their inalienable rights? Are we not aware and convinced of the prevailing, modern and enlightened, liberal democracy under “The Rule of Law” when we proclaimed that “. . . only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify . . . to be citizens of Liberia”?
Are these constitutional prescriptions and actions thereof not, in fact, blatant contradictions of our own belief systems in respect to socio-economic and political justice, particularly regarding racial justice? Was it not because of these considerations that Liberia took legal action against the-then “racist” Republic of South Africa?
In the light of foregoing, we are convinced that our current constitutional provisions – particularly, Article 27(b) and those other laws that bar law-abiding persons of good character from Liberian citizenship only on the grounds of non-negro and/or non-negro descent – are clearly outdated, insensitive and injudicious. We strongly believe and suggest that nationals and other non-Negro persons resident in Liberia and desiring Liberian citizenship should and must be granted their wish, if qualified, without consideration of non-negro and/or non-negro descent; and that such laws be repealed.
(B) Argument for Repeal of Article 22(b), Customary Land Tenure
When our Fore-fathers, the Settlers, arrived on this land mass, now known as Liberia, they met, recognized and accepted a People, a polity and Body Politic, with a system of government and governance of Tribal Chiefdoms/Kingdoms, with laws and socio-cultural, traditional practices, although with a level of diversity from Tribe to Tribe. According to these laws and traditional norms and practices, land was held in common by the indigenous citizens, living in villages and towns, with rights of possession and ownership. This approach was mutually agreed, accepted and binding, based on what the Settlers, our Fore-fathers, termed as “building upon what existed”, known then as now, as traditional norms, practices and “Customary Land Tenure”. Villages and towns were founded and built for collective/individual habitation.
We note that the Commission’s Recommended Draft Land Policy provides (Item #6.3.2) that “Ownership of Customary Land includes ownership of natural resources on the land, such as forests, including carbon credits, and water”.
However, the Recommended Draft Land Policy states that “In accordance with the Constitution [of Liberia, 1986, Article 22(b)], the Government has exclusive, ownership rights of ‘any mineral resources on or beneath any land or . . . or any lands under the seas and waterways’. The Government shall have authority to regulate natural resource use and access”. Put differently, the Government of Liberia not only has exclusive ownership rights to waterways (rivers, creeks and streams) and any mineral resources on or beneath any land (whether owned in accordance with known and agreed customary tenure), but also the authority to regulate use and access of those natural resources “shall be for the entire Republic”.
We had hoped that these, more than century-long, held prescriptions and still prevailing practices, would not be included in the Commission’s reform, policy recommendations, because such prescriptions/practices are in flagrant violation of the understanding reached, with agreement made by and between our Fore-fathers and the tribal chiefdoms/kingdoms, as shown by the Hinterland Law of 1949. These long-held prescriptions and practices, the constant source of land disagreements and conflicts, have been and are deeply disappointing and extremely troubling, simply because:
1. Our Government has failed, miserably, in its “constitutional obligations [Article 22(b)] for the management of the use” of the proceeds gained from the natural resources – forests (timber), iron ore, etc. Such “management of the use” has been and is characterized by blatant dishonesty (corruption), a pronounced absence of efficiency, transparency and accountability.
2. Recent example is the system of Private Use Permit (PUP), a dishonest and illegal nightmare which constrained the President of the nation to dismiss the Managing Director of the FDA.
3. Now, we have the “Putu Mountain” condition/scenario, fraught with all sorts of unanswered questions: First, who are the officials of government to whom huge sums of money were, allegedly, paid for the approval of a questionable, investment contract? Second, who are the shareholders of the “Putu Iron ore Mining Company” and, is the County, Grand Gedeh, the natural owner of the fabled “Gedeh” Mountain or a citizen thereof, represented on the list of shareholders?
4. In Bomi, Nimba and Bong Counties, the Iron ore Mining Companies, in close “alliance” and cooperation with our government, mined the iron ores, natural resources from beneath the land, exported them to foreign countries and left holes in the ground. Today, the road connections between Ganta and Saniquellie, and between Saniquellie and Yekepa, where the iron came from, are perennial, transport headaches. The citizens of these counties have nothing, much, to show for their natural resources the “management of the use” of which was or is the constitutional obligation of the government of Liberia. Just talk to the people of Bomi, Bong and Nimba Counties!!
Moreover, we argue, the Commission will agree, that the land and the forests, waterways (rivers, creeks & streams) on the land, and mineral resources on and beneath the land are inseparable, naturally-endowed resources and assets of the lawful owner of such land, not only the land, forests and water on the land, but also the naturally-endowed resources and assets beneath the land. Ownership and possession of these assets, therefore, are integral to customary, community-based, traditional land tenure. Significantly, therefore, forests and related, natural resource-sector managements must ensure rural communities’ rights to title and ownership that is inevitable; for, land tenure reform occurs only when concrete, policy declaration is made, with commitment, that the assets of rural communities are their forests, waterways and mineral resources, on and beneath the land.
Therefore, Article 22(b) of our Constitution is a unilateral abrogation and/or a clear violation of the solemn, binding agreement duly made and entered into by and between the Settlers, our fore-fathers, and the-then Governments and People of this land. In specific terms, Article 22(b) of the Liberian Constitution denies and violates rights of possession and ownership of waterways and any mineral resources on and beneath the land to Customary Land Owners, duly executed in accordance with Customary Land Tenure agreement.
To countenance and continue recognition of this unilateral abrogation and, therefore, violation of a duly executed, mutually binding agreement, an unreasonable and, indeed, illegal prescription by Article 22(b), is to argue validity of the notion of “territorial sovereignty”, a questionable claim, even, during “pre-territorial sovereignty”.
Indigenous title is a common law doctrine that holds that the land ownership and possession rights of indigenous peoples in accordance with Customary Land Tenure, persist after the assumption of “Territorial Sovereignty” under a Settler conditions, as in the case of Liberia. The requirements for proof of the recognition of aboriginal title, the content of aboriginal title, the methods of extinguishing aboriginal title, and the availability of compensation in the case of extinguishment vary, significantly, by jurisdiction. Nearly all jurisdictions, however, are in agreement that aboriginal title is inalienable as well as inviolate.
The requirements for establishing an aboriginal title to the land vary across countries (particularly, colonized territories), but generally speaking, the aboriginal claimant must establish, as was done long before occupation or possession, before the assertion of sovereignty, with continuity to the present day. These conditional requirements have been and are duly satisfied and met long, long ago. Therefore, Article 22(b) must be repealed.
(C) Argument against Dual Citizenship in Liberia as well as against Repeal of Provisions of the Alien & Nationality Law.
The just-ended, December 7-8, 2012, Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference of US/European-based Liberians in the Diaspora, sponsored by the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, Inc. (ULAA) was a gathering of a relative handful of our fellow citizens, some of who are naturalized citizens of foreign countries and, therefore, dual citizens, a violation of our constitutional and statutory laws on dual citizenship, while others are permanent residents and applicants for naturalized citizenships of the US and other countries.
Caught in the claws of existing Liberian Laws, our fellow compatriots now seek a reasonably, persuasive argument to amend the existing, constitutional provisions, amend and/or repeal the Alien & Nationality Law for adoption of Dual Citizenship in Liberia, although there is a dual citizenship bill now pending in the Liberian Senate for the past 2-3 years, sponsored by some senior senators, rumored to be dual citizens.
The ULAA-led organizers sought, secured the support and involvement of the Liberian Government through the Liberian Ambassador, USA, for cooperation with the planners of the Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference. According to Mr. Emmanuel Wettee, ULAA Chairman of the Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference, “. . . ULAA . . . in collaboration with the Embassy of Liberia in Washington, D. C., is organizing the two-day conference . . .” This “collaboration” or alliance could present a sticky problem for President Sirleaf, because her son, Mr. Robert Sirleaf, Senior Advisor to the President and Board Chairman of Liberia’s National Oil Company (NOCAL), has been accused of being a dual citizen of Liberia and the United States, a violation of Article 28 of the Liberian Constitution and related, statutory law on dual citizenship.
The history of citizenship is a description of the changing relationships (or contracts) 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 in ideas (the French and US Revolutions, etc.).
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 (civil disasters and military conflicts, socio-economic, political and security) that are so very important that they 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.
Moreover, throughout human history, the term “citizenship” described and denotes the relationship between the individual, the citizen, and the state, an organized, political community of citizens from the state of nature to the social state. That relationship is, in fact, a contract (a Social Contract/political theory) or agreement between the state and its citizen with “terms and conditions” that defined mutually-binding obligations/responsibilities. Although there had been and are continuing, timely changes in the relationships from state to state due, primarily, to peculiar socio-economic and political conditions/obligations that prevail in these states, the fundamental, basic lawful, mutually-binding obligations are immutable.
Dual citizenship is not new to Liberia and Liberians. Characterized by political infidelity to the Liberian nation, dual citizenship has been in practice (public/private dishonesty or corruption) in Liberia since the days of founding of the nation by freed slaves in 1847. Almost all Liberian government officials, their families and related, socio-economic classes were, and some, today, are 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 incomes, generated in Liberia through dishonest or corrupt practices from “marriage” of politics and economic activities (the nation’s peculiar, controlled Political Economy) were and are being transferred out of Liberia to purchase and, indeed, 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 bank accounts.
Finally, given the abysmal, historic failure of our political economy dominated by dual citizens, a condition that resulted into a nation now reeling under the burden of social, economic and political under-development, it would be suicidal to introduce dual citizenship into the Republic, whether lawful or unlawful. As a small, relatively poor, developing country of less than 4 million people, the majority of which is, relatively, uninformed and live in abject poverty, it is and will be greatly unwise, indeed dangerous, for the Republic to recognize and permit dual citizenship, a system which could and may, likely, award and entrust the political, economic, social and moral leadership, the life and security of the nation, to an “alien Liberian” who has denounced/renounced his/her lawful obligations to the Republic, and whose exclusive allegiance, patriotism and loyalty are mortgaged to a foreign country.
With dual citizenship adopted, Liberia could and 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).
During these difficult days in which the Republic is engaged in post-conflict reconstruction in an atmosphere of international terrorism, ethnic/tribal conflicts, the ever-present and increasing graft, greed, private/public dishonesty (corruption), the need for national security and the survival of the nation and its people are supreme. In our view, the reasons, among many others, are profound, critical and, particularly, democratic; for, the preservation, promotion and protection of the interests of the majority, through diligent observance and enforcement of the law, over-ride the interest of a single citizen or a very few, handful of citizens, who are dual citizens, and in violation of the law.
Therefore, dual citizenship should not and must not be recognized and adopted in Liberia.
We attach, herewith, the article, “Dual Citizenship: Loyalty to whom”? by Dan Eden, for your information.
(D) Argument & Recommendation for Public Funding of Political Candidates/Parties
In August, 2012, it was reported that “the (Liberian) House of Representatives . . . passed into law the controversial bill seeking . . . public funding of political parties, coalitions and alliances . . .” This action, according to the proponents of the controversial bill is “seeking to sustain democracy through public funding . . .”
Indeed, public funding of political candidates and parties is necessary to enable qualified candidates who lack the required, financial resources to compete successfully, because such funding provides political competition with an “even playing field” that is not controlled by wealthy and “socio-politically-connected” candidates and, thereby, democratizes the pluralistic, political process. Significantly, funding of political candidates/parties in Liberia is a necessity; in that, Liberia is a nation in which the overwhelming majority of the population had been systematically excluded from political participation due, mainly, to lack of information and economic reasons.
Firstly, however, there is the critical, troubling challenge in 21st century Liberia; that is, the prevailing problem of the multiplicity of political parties in our, small country. Presently, there are some twenty-something political parties (and counting) in the country of less than 4 million people and 16 major, tribal groups. Compared to other countries, particularly, the United States, from which we borrowed, almost, all of our laws, and upon which we modeled, almost, all of our political activities, there are only two lawfully-recognized, national or federal political parties, with a population of 250-300 million, ours is a joke.
Moreover, the proliferated, Liberian political parties are organized and managed NOT in accordance with traditional convention of “shared beliefs” or political philosophy, but in accordance with or along ethnic/tribal lines. One may argue, reasonably, that the Tribe is still alive and well in rural as well in urban communities, as the major, instantly and conveniently available source, not only for socio-cultural fellowship and unity, but also for economic, political and security protection, including related interests and multi-party, political process along tribal lines. However, there is a critical need, today, for unity, for survival.
Secondly, the divisive nature of our ethnic/tribal bigotry – fear, suspicion, envy, jealousy, superstition, prejudice, segregation/discrimination, and antagonism bordering on hatred – a condition that has been exacerbated by the recent, civil war, created deep, tribal cleavages that must be overcome and, eventually, eradicated.
In the light of the foregoing conditions, it is extremely necessary that our initial action be to limit, by law, the number of political parties in Liberia through the following:
1. Population of the nation as the major determinant of the number of political parties and threshold of 20% or thereabout of national vote.
2. Political beliefs or philosophy:
1. Right wing conservative
2. Liberal Conservative
This approach will encourage political party membership to be based on “shared beliefs” or political philosophy, as much as possible and less on ethnic/tribal affinity.
While political candidate/party funding offers an excellent, “even playing field” to “sustain democracy”, it is also another opportunity for corruption, both within the given political candidate/party and the National Election Commission (NEC).
It has been shown and known that some “politicians” organize (their tribe’s) tribal, political parties simply to be noticed as “standard bearers”, practices which can be used to seek appointments from the winning candidate after the election, knowing that they have no chance of being elected president in the first place. Now, with this funding bill, there could be much more proliferation of tribal or just any political parties, if the nation’s population consideration, a threshold limit and political philosophy requirements, as indicated, are not required and met.
Regarding the NEC and the electoral process – laws, demarcation of constituencies, registration of political parties and voters, campaigns by the political parties, party finances/financing and oversight, vote-counting, declaration of results and adjudication of disputes in Liberia, as we have experienced – have not been free, fair, transparent, credible or legitimate.
We recommend, therefore, that public funding of political candidate/party be tied to the indicated requirements.
(E) Argument for Constitutional Provision for approved, Policy on National Decentralization
Samuel Kanyon Doe, 21st President of Liberia
Decentralization – Proclaimed National, Public Policy for CHANGE & efficient Service Delivery
Advanced in a Paper (“Decentralization of Political Power in Liberia: A Framework for Regional Empowerment & Participation in National Decision-making”) presented at the National Conference 2024 on the future of Liberia, held at the Unity Conference Center on July 19, 1998, and now proclaimed as a national policy by government, Decentralization, as a national, public policy for Change & efficient/effective delivery of public services, consistent with the spirit of the April 12, 1980 Event, draws attention to the development – socio-economic and political – of the regional, political sub-divisions, with emphasis on rural Liberia, where the majority of the nation’s known endowment of natural resources are located, and the overwhelming majority of the nation’s population lives.
In her first Inaugural Speech delivered on January 6, 2006, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as President of Liberia, demonstrated profound encouragement for the future of our country by the declaration that “. . . I pledge to bring the government closer to the people. The days of the imperial presidency . . . are over in Liberia . . . The Executive Mansion and ‘Monrovia’ will, no longer, be the only center of power . . . The people and their interests, as defined by them, will be at the very heart of our new dispensation of decentralization . . . of power (Vol. 1 No. 1, Governance Commission Decentralization Bulletin, March 31, 2011)”. Indeed, these pledges of encouragement are, in fact, two of the major themes of the Paper on Decentralization.
President William R. Tolbert, Jr. & First Lady Victoria Tolbert (©) and US President Richard Nixon in 1973
However, since the founding of this nation in 1847, some 165 years ago as an independent nation, political, economic and administrative power has been, and continues to be, rigidly concentrated in, controlled and dispensed from the Republic of Monrovia, consistent with the doctrine of Unitary-structured governance, with socio-economic development, such as education, trade and commerce (import/export), minor industrial development centralized, also, in Monrovia. Meanwhile, there has been little or no meaningful, socio-economic and political development – educational, agricultural, industrial, trade and commerce, and communication system of all-weather roads/highways, the most important and required “Multiplier effect” in national, economic development for production and exchange of goods and services, both national and international – have been untaken in rural Liberia.
Moreover, the administration of counties – the national, constituent, political sub-divisions and their sub-structures are caught in vicious shackles of policy contradictions and confusions, due to policies made and dispensed by bureaucrats sitting in Monrovia, creating more, new sub-structures such as clan and paramount chiefdoms, townships, administrative and statutory districts, in addition to existing sub-structures created by ancient, Liberia Law governing Hinterland Liberia, without the benefit of current, research information. As a matter of fact, in her most recent, Annual Message delivered on January 28, 2013, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said this about “. . . the challenges of the Decentralization Policy . . . the present local (in the counties) governance structures are bloated, and difficult to manage. For example, there are more than 149 cities – 33 in Sinoe . . . 93 Administrative Districts; 251 Paramount Chiefs; more than 689 Clan Chiefs; 1,410 General Town Chiefs; and 250 Township Commissioners”, (indicating the creation of that number of townships). “Moreover”, the President continued, “the government has to deliver services to more than 16,000 TOWNS AND VILLAGES. As if these statistics were not daunting enough, the boundaries of all these localities overlap, leading to confusion over jurisdiction and administrative authority . . .”
The negative impact or consequences of these socio-economic and political, public policy confusions are numerous and devastating. They include, for example, the following:
1. Rapid population growth and urbanization, in the absence or lack of the required planning, regulation and control.
2. Populations migrations with the rise of the “consumption generation”.
3. Rural-to-urban migration in the case of the prevailing, socio-economic and political constipation of the City of Monrovia, with its urban transport nightmare, rendering the capital city over-populated, congested and ungovernable.
4. The celebrated, uncontrollable, Monrovia Street-selling as the natural outcome.
5. The 24-hour, Monrovia bumper-to-bumper, traffic jam, arising from the phenomenal increase in the volume of vehicular/pedestrian traffic, with no roads/streets to ply. Apparently, all vehicles imported to Liberia are concentrated in the Monrovia area because of the critical absence of roads/highways in rural Liberia.
6. Other county dwellers, especially rural, migrate to Monrovia to avail themselves of employment/economic, educational, and personal growth and developmental opportunities.
In the light of these conditions, it is reasonable to conclude that the rational resolution of Liberia’s major socio-economic and political problems lies in the application of the most, modern theory and successful practice of classical, democratic thought and convention, Decentralization/Federalism.
Efficiently/effectively and diligently managed, with socio-economic and political incentives designed to attract, not only Monrovia street-sellers, but also, all other, rural migrants, including nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers, educators/academicians, business managers, economists, investment promoters, information technologists, etc., here, in Monrovia, back to their home counties, and entrepreneurs wishing to migrate, Decentralization is the rational approach for the resolution of our social, economic and political under-development.
Charles McArther Taylor, 22nd President of Liberia
The Paper on Decentralization proposed the re-division/re-demarcation of the nation into four, major, regional, political sub-divisions, with the rights and authority of semi-autonomous, constituent governments, to elect their political leaders now appointed by “Monrovia”.
William V. S. Tubman, 19th President of Liberia
These sub-divisions are to be known as “provinces” – Eastern, North Central, South Central and Western – with the counties amalgamated into the demarcated provinces as they (counties) are presently defined and geographically located, on the basis of geography, socio-cultural commonality, etc., while federalism provides local self-determination. Although this concept and approach may not solve all of Liberia’s problems, but it will, certainly, go a long way in resolving the nation’s major, often contested issue of political power (with untold human and material sacrifices as we have already experienced), local self-rule or political participation, with the critical ability for political compromise, give-and-take, the CHANGE for which the April 12, 1980 Event took place.
The nomenclature of “province” is symbolic; in that, it is a known, readily recognized and accepted appellation of a political, semi-autonomous sub-division of an independent state. A county is a lower, sub-structure of a sub-division. A “province”, in terms of semi-autonomous, political sub-division, connotes maturity with ability to perform the required functions of a constituent, semi-autonomous, political sub-division. This may NOT be said of some of the “counties” as presently constituted, in terms of size (geographical), population, human and natural resources.
Joseph Jenkins Roberts, 1st & 6th President of Liberia
Amalgamation seeks to resolve these, critical problems. Some of the prevailing, county sub-divisions lack the population and the natural resources required to perform the responsibilities, effectively, efficiently and adequately, as required of a political sub-division. Hence, amalgamation of the counties into the demarcated provinces resolves this problem.
In the light of the foregoing, it is necessary, indeed mandatory, that there be constitutional provision for the implementation of the approved Policy.