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Editorial

The minister-designate et al must return to the ‘status quo’

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Since the issue (a draft Bill) dual citizenship was raised before the Legislature in early 2012 by a delegation of Liberians from the United States, very little has been heard on Capitol Hill about the request made by our compatriots-turned American citizens.  Inside sources at the Capitol have suggested to the New Dawn Liberia that the bill may perpetually remain in ‘Committee room’ until “Thy Kingdom Come” as the majority of the Legislators seem not to favor any deliberation by Plenary on the matter because of their strong opposition.  In actuality, dual citizenship is a status in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen under the laws of more than one state.

In their quest of building or strengthening their capacities at all levels of growth and development, especially before and during the civil crisis, several Liberians had to subscribe to the laws of the United States, thereby abandoning Liberian citizenship.

With their desire to return home to contribute to the socio-economic and political development of the country whose citizenship, they once abandoned because they wanted jobs and education in the United States, such request by them to the Legislature continues to receive mix-reactions-with the majority of Liberians disfavoring and cautioning the Legislature against passing the dual citizenship bill into law. The suggestion being propounded is for these Liberians to forego their American citizenship to return to the status quo-something the American-turned compatriots out rightly reject.

Even though the proposal came directly from the United States, it represents the interest of Diaspora Liberians with foreign nationalities, including most of those nominated/appointed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to work in her administration- many of whom may have passed the Senate’s confirmation test only because the issue may not have been as crucial as now.

The man nominated as Deputy Minister for Commerce and Trade, Mr. Alphaiour Ahmed Bah could not survive the wrath of the Liberian senate when he initially denied being a citizen of another country during his confirmation process in the office of Lofa County Senator Sumo Cupee last Thursday at the Capitol.  “Let me just find out this one from you; besides being a Liberian- which I’m fully aware of, are you a citizen of any country?” asked Senator Sando Johnson of Bomi County.

“To the best of my knowledge- no.” Denied Deputy Minister-designate Bah. But when seriously warned by Senator Mabutu Nyenpan of Sinoe County that he (Bah) was under oath, and that the committee had expected nothing from him, but the truth, he admitted in the affirmative, further disclosing that he was a citizen of the United States-a response that created strong feelings/anger among senators conducting the confirmation hearing, with Senator Johnson threatening to walk out, on grounds that he (Johnson) could not conduct a hearing with another citizen; but was calmed by Sen. Massalley, who later admonished the Deputy Minister-designate, apparently in the spirit of Islamic solidarity, to engage President Sirleaf in order to revert the situation.

The action by the senators may be against the backdrop of the negative consequences of ‘dual citizenship’. According to Article 28 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia states emphatically that: No citizen of the Republic shall be deprived of citizenship or nationality, except as provided by law; and no person shall be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality.

The foregoing Constitutional provision clear cuts the matter short without any further debate. It explains that in as much as no Liberian-no matter where he or she lives or work in the world- can be denied of his/her Liberian citizenship, he/she cannot also be denied his/her right to change nationality or citizenship- a constitutional provision on which Deputy Minister-designate Bah and others may have  relied to forego their Liberian citizenship, but did not also understand that by such decision, they were no longer Liberian citizens and the rights under the 1986 Constitution had a ‘question mark’ unless they reverse their previous decision to the ‘status quo’.

While we do understand the situation with Bah and others, let it also be understood that there are thousands of Liberians who have lived in the Diaspora for more than four decades without changing their nationality/citizenship. As the Deputy Minister-designate for Commerce and Trade returns to President Sirleaf, he must consider a return to the status quo, i.e., Liberian citizenship.

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