The Constitution of Liberia stipulates that only people of Negro descent can obtain Liberian nationality. Efforts have been made by several key figures of the political system to have that portion of the constitution changed to allow every other foreign national to naturalize, but yet the law remains the same.
Some Liberians are harboring the belief that this is slowing the growth and development of Liberia; while others also think that any attempt to give credence to such openness will disenfranchise citizens in terms of land ownership in the country.
This is the Noise In The Market.
“Look my brother, you may not accept the fact now because of your ego, but one day you will realize that what I am saying here is the reality. Believe it or not, the only way this country can be rebuilt fast is to allow foreigners like the Lebanese people to naturalize. They control the economy; they have the money to build the kind of infrastructures that will make Liberia as beautiful as other places we praise every day,” Michel Varkpah said as the debate heats up in an entertainment center in Barnesville, the suburb of the Liberian capital.
Dressed in a brown business suit, black shoes and blue ties, Michel Varkpah, a civil servant, was emotionally engaged in an intense and bitter argument with Abdulai Blackie, a childhood friend and school mate, who is bitterly against the naturalization’s policy. Biting his down lip while shaking both legs indicating how impatient he is to respond to what his friend Michel has just said. His impatience got satisfaction when Michel finally gave him chance to say his view.
“Thank you for giving me the chance to talk finally my brother. You see, we have to be very careful in this country with how we address issues. Go to the airport one day and find out for yourself. You will get to know that foreign nationals, especially Lebanese, are carrying huge amount of money out of the country every week. Hundreds of thousands are leaving the country in that manner. This is money that could be used to develop Liberia if these people had the chance were given the chance to naturalize.” Abdulai said.
Hands under the chin, staring at his friend, Michel Varkpah asks Abdulai if he is through with his view. “I am through you can go ahead.” Abdulai replied while looking at his friend from down up. “Now let me ask you a question my brother. Do you think the naturalization’s policy is the reason of this capital flight?”
“Yes brother, yes indeed, the naturalization’s policy is the cause of such a capital flight. Now let me tell you why. The Lebanese in this country want to buy land and build structures that can beautify this lovely nation, but the constitution is not giving them the opportunity to do so. Now, they have the money, they cannot invest here, what do you want them to do? Were you to be the one in that position what would you have done? Look in our neighboring countries where foreign nationals can own land. Most of the modern structures are owned by foreigners. But for the sake of God, do they carry these structures whenever they decide to leave the country? I say no. But why are we suffering ourselves in this country.” Abdulai said in a frustrated mood.
At that moment, Mohamed Hassan, 32 years old, mother Liberian and father Lebanese, intervened sharply. “My brother, we are greatly affected by this thing. I am so frustrated that sometimes I get the feeling of putting an end to my life. I was born in this country. My father lived here for 45 years. Until he died he was still struggling to obtain the Liberian nationality. He tried to no avail everything he could, that includes legal approach. His dream was to buy land and build estate. But unfortunately he could not, because of this constitution, do what he had as dream for this country. Now look at my color. In Lebanon I am considered as Liberian, but here people say I am a Lebanese. I have been trying hard since the death of my father, to obtain the right to buy land, but until now I have no affirmative respond. I am going crazy, I am going mad, I am dying slowly because I am very frustrated.” Hassan said.
An old man, about 60 years, who has been listening to the debate for more than an hour, raised his finger to call the attention of all of us. “Can I give you guys my piece of advice gentlemen?” The old man said. Every one of us responded positively with a movement of the heads. Walking majestically towards us, the old man called for a bottle of Alomo Bitter. “Let me be heating up while sharing my experience with my children.” He said.
“I have been listening to all of you guys, and I think everyone is right in this case. But while in the past we have been supporting this policy is that we have been scare to lose our lands. We believed, and still believe, that if the Lebanese for instance are given the chance to naturalize, consequently given the right to purchase a land, they will buy all the lands because they have the money, and we will be left with none because we don’t have money.” The old man said.
At that juncture, I packed and left, because I believed that was just another noise in the market.