Unity Party Chairman’s Declaration for Dual Citizenship: A Pre-emptive Tactic?
In his National Oration on July 26, 2013, the Honorable, Counselor Varney Sherman, Chairman of the nation’s Ruling, Political Party, came out, flamboyantly and unequivocally, for adaption of the hotly-debated, controversial Dual Citizenship in Liberia.
Said the Counselor, “Madam President and to you, Members of the leadership (the National Legislature present) of our country that we begin with a ‘Once-a-Liberian-Always-a-Liberian’ policy, through which every Liberian citizen, wherever he may be or whatever his circumstances might be can feel a part of and be a stakeholder of Liberia – a nation where a natural-born citizen’s rights and benefits of citizenship cannot be alienated or obliterated merely by his assumption of residency of citizenship of another country”.
Continuing, the Counselor was mindful of the political benefits that could accrue to his ruling, Unity Party when he declared, “You, Madam President, as usual, could be the driver of this policy to ensure that it succeeds, and I urge you to drive the dual citizenship as quickly as you can. If dual citizenship is not accomplished during your term, Madam President, it is likely that it will be one of the first things your successor will do and then, it will be your successor, not you, who will be determined by these non-resident Liberians as the real reconciler. Make no mistake that these people influence politics, including elections”.
The Counselor concluded by this analysis and questions: “Another group of people who, I believe is essential for true reconciliation, are the non-resident Liberians . . . who have been deprived of their Liberian citizenship only because they assume the citizenship of another country. What . . . is the rationale for an antiquated law which makes them foreigners? And empirical evidence suggests that tremendous, economic benefits are associated with those nine ECOWAS countries – including Sierra Leone, our neighbor – who have adopted dual citizenship for themselves. Why, are we different from those nine ECOWAS countries?”
Declaration of support of a public policy position by any citizen, indeed, a political party or its leader, is not unusual; in fact, it is part and parcel of the game of political party competition. However, public declaration of this sort and nature, made by the National Orator, the teacher of our national folklore, norms, belief systems and ethos who, while at the exalted podium on this important, National Day, assumes and embodies Liberian, National Personality, reduces and, therefore, demeans the National Oration by p o l i t r i c k s of politics. For, Mr. Varney G. Sherman is not only the learned Counselor-at-Law, Chairman of a political party, but also the Chairman and undisputed Leader of the powerful, ruling, Political Party.
Thus, this public declaration, by the chairman and leader of the nation’s powerful, ruling, political party, is seen by the citizens to be designed, apparently, to preempt organized opposition. One may ask, what, precisely, did Counselor Sherman say? Careful review/summation of the Counselor’s public statements, questions and analysis, in this respect, shows the following:
1. “. . . We begin with a ‘Once-a-Liberian-Always-Liberian’ policy through which every Liberian citizen, wherever he may be or whatever his circumstances might be . . . and be a stakeholder of Liberia – a nation where a natural-born citizen’s rights and benefits of citizenship cannot be alienated or obliterated merely by his assumption of residency of citizenship of another country”.
2. “Another group of people . . . non-resident Liberians . . . who have been deprived of their Liberian citizenship only because they assume the citizenship of another country. What . . . is the rationale for an antiquated law which makes them foreigners”?
3. “And empirical evidence suggests that tremendous, economic benefits are associated with those nine ECOWAS countries – including Sierra Leone, our neighbor – who have adopted dual citizenship for themselves. Why, are we different from those nine ECOWAS countries?”
Throughout the history of humankind, the terms “citizen” and “citizenship” described and denote the relationship between the Citizen, an individual, and the state or nation-state, an organized, political community of citizens, from the state of nature to the contemporary, social state. That relationship is, in fact, a contract (Social Contract), an agreement with “terms and conditions” that define mutually-binding obligations/responsibilities of the state to the citizen and the citizen to the state.
Fundamentally, citizenship is defined by and rests on “Love-of-country” – loyalty, allegiance and patriotism to the state, and the state to the citizen. Although there had been and are continuing, timely changes in some elements of the relationships due, primarily, to peculiar socio-economic and political conditions/obligations, the concept of citizen and citizenship had been and remains immutable. Therefore, citizenship and political loyalty to the state remains a major, inseparable, desired requirement in that relationship which, inevitably, remains unchanged. Almost all sovereign states and nation-states require exclusive oaths of allegiance as a pre-condition for the granting of naturalized citizenships, including the United States, with its elaborate requirements of exclusive commitment to the nation.
These obligations (of state-to-the-citizen and citizen-to-the-state) 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; notions of loyalty, allegiance and patriotism; socio-cultural principles and values; and the sense of national belonging, individual/collective, national identity, unity and security.
Jus Soli (right of the soil)
Recently, there has been and still is a lot of noise, in the Diaspora by some proponents of dual citizenship, about an inalienable right of Liberian citizenship of those born on the soil of the territory of the Republic of Liberia. While this birthright/citizenship is a gift of nature or a natural-right may not be denied, citizenship, in general, is determined and applied, admittedly, by humankind in society, according to modern, socio-political thought and, in terms and conditions of the social contract. For example, countries that have agreed to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness will grant nationality or citizenship to persons who, otherwise would be stateless, were born on their territories or on ship or airplane.
Moreover, Jus Soli is observed by a minority of the world’s countries. The United States and Canada are the only large economies that observe birthright citizenship, according to the IMF. Since 2004, no European country grants unconditional birthright citizenship based on Jus Soli.
A. In Item #1, Counselor Sherman proposes a Policy of “Once-a-Liberia-Always-a-Liberian”, wherever he/she may be, whatever his/her circumstances are, his/her natural-born citizen’s rights and benefits of citizenship cannot be alienated or obliterated merely by his/her assumption of residency of citizenship of another country.
B. Response: While we applaud this approach as a progressive policy for unity, security and a sense of belonging, but not for any “Liberian” who has renounced his/her Liberian citizenship – disloyal and unpatriotic, with his/her allegiance mortgaged, exclusively, to and lives in another country, and a possible criminal. Section 22.1 of the Alien & Nationality Law of Liberia provides that any Liberian citizen, natural-born or naturalized who, willingly and knowingly, applies for and becomes a naturalized citizen of another country loses his/her Liberian citizenship. This is the Law and the Counselor knows it!! Indeed, it is the “any Liberian” who should and must want to enjoy the “Once-a-Liberian-Always-a-Liberian” rights and benefits. This has not been the case with many “Liberians”.
C. Item #2, the Counselor-at-Law says that “non-resident Liberians have been “deprived” of their Liberian citizenship only because they assume the citizenship of another country. What is the rationale for an antiquated law which makes them foreigners?”
D. Response: We beg to disagree; in that, that to which the Counselor refers as “deprived” was or is, in fact, the decision based on the nation’s Law, the Alien & Nationality Law, the Law which the Counselor Sherman describes as “antiquated”. That Law was enacted, borrowed and based on US 1952 Law of the same title, in 1956, amended, approved and passed in into law in 1973. Now, undoubtedly, the Counselor has been around during or part of the time period as an attorney, when did he realize that this law is archaic, lost its usefulness and not, any longer, relevant to the prevailing conditions – “antiquated”? The Counselor knows, also, that with law-making goes the responsibility to provide the possibility of amendment/repeal antiquated laws. Moreover, the “rationale” for this decision is found, reasonably, in Section 22.1 of the Alien & Nationality Law of Liberia.
E. Item #3, Counselor Sherman says that nine (9) ECOWAS countries have adopted Dual Citizenship “because evidence suggests that tremendous economic benefits are associated with those ECOWAS countries, including Sierra Leone, our neighbor. Why are we different from those . . . ECOWAS countries?” Implicitly, Liberia should and must adopt dual citizenship, because 9 ECOWAS countries have done so, including our next door neighbor, the Republic of Sierra Leone.
F. Response: Indeed, nations, like persons or individuals are unlike and unequal in their natural endowments – they are unequal in their mental and physical abilities; they are dissimilar in their earthly locations, needs and desires for socio-economic well-being, etc. Similarly, in the context of nations, the critical factors are socio-cultural homogeneity, education, information, politics, economics/technological development, national unity and security (military capability), etc. Therefore, nations enact and enforce domestic laws and pursue socio-economic and political plans and programs designed to promote, protect and defend their peculiar needs and vital interests, including requirements for granting naturalized citizenships.
Counselor Sherman says that the nine ECOWAS countries adopted dual citizenship because “evidence suggests tremendous economic benefits are associated with those ECOWAS countries”. For Liberia, evidence of the history of dual citizens (let alone dual citizenship) shows the contrary. In fact, dual citizens were and are one of the major sources of corruption, transfers of enormous amounts of US dollars “earned” in and out of Liberia, purchased and maintain homes and families, with fabulous bank accounts in foreign countries.
In remarks made at ULAA, 2006 National Conference held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, as Former President of ULAA, we drew the attention of ULAA officials (including Mr. Emmanuel Wettee, who was elected President) to possible, dual citizenship scenarios, one of which is about (now in 2013) to become a reality. In response to the-then muted “talk and murmurs” about dual citizenship, I cautioned ULAA members about the possible outcomes involving dual citizens.
For an insight into the dual citizen scenario, let us suppose, we held, firstly, that Solo Gaye is a dual citizen of countries A and B. Subsequently, a ferocious and highly dangerous war breaks out between the two countries A and B. For which country will Mr. Solo Gaye take up arms and do battle in defense of his country, consistent with his patriotic obligation?
Secondly, Boima Sando is a dual citizen of countries C and D. Of the two countries, Mr. Sando “lives” in country C, his country of birth, but his entire family, home, etc. are in country D, the wealthy, most powerful and superior nation, in socio-economic, diplomatic and military terms. After committing a series of serious crimes – public dishonesty (corruption), theft, embezzlement and transfers of huge sums of money “earned” in and out of his birth country, C, Mr. Sando escapes to country D, of which he is also citizen. Will extradition lie? If so, will extradition be effected, given the superior wealth, political/diplomatic, military clout and might of country D?
Liberia has, now, come face-to-face with this scenario in the case of Ms. Ellen Corkrum, a reported Ghanian citizen who claims Liberian citizenship and known US citizen, and a Mr. Melvin Johnson, a reported US citizen, who, also claims Liberian citizenship. The additional agony of it all is that Liberia will have to dig up more money to send a team of lawyers to the USA in the effort to effect extradition, putting “good money after bad money”.
Meanwhile, most of the ministers, their deputies and assistants; heads of government agencies and their assistants; state enterprise (public corporations) managing directors, presidents their deputies and assistants, vice presidents and other corporate officers are dual citizens. Also, it is reported that the leadership of the National Legislature is dominated by dual citizens, a violation of Article 30 of the Nation’s Constitution.
And finally, it is very important to note that one of the planks of the ULAA-sponsored, Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference Resolutions is a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Executive Order to be requested of the Nation’s President. By this Executive Order, She will “direct” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Consular Officers not only to lay off, “relax all stringent verification” of Liberian citizenship claims, including enforcement of the entire Alien & Nationality Law, a law duly passed and in full force and effect that the President of the Republic is, under law, sworn and obligated to implement and enforce, but also to “issue Liberian passports and travel documents” to all alleged, “natural-born Liberians with alleged valid documentations that prove birth in Liberia”; provide Liberian passports to children born in foreign countries to Liberian parents, “whether or not such children are under (or have declared) oath of allegiance to foreign countries; and that the “Executive Order will remain in place (in full force and effect) until a new law is enacted”. In other words, the Executive Order from the President will:
1. Stop all lawful verification requirements of alleged, Liberian citizenship.
2. Direct issuance of Liberian passports to Liberians, although these Liberians are admitted and proven naturalized citizens of foreign countries, with exclusive oath of allegiance, loyalty and patriotism to these foreign countries.
3. Remain in force and effect pending repeal/enactment of the Alien & Nationality Law and, thereby, “relax, halt” or stop lawful enforcement of an existing law, passed and approved in 1873.
The problem with this approach is that not only that the “don’t ask-don’t tell” Executive Order is improper and illegal and, an apparent return to or reminiscent of the past “smoke-filled, closed-door, backroom, ‘political wheeling and dealing’, but also that the objectives indicated (items 1, 2 and 3 above) are, clearly, in violation of our law. A delegation of the ULAA, Pro-dual citizenship met with the President and, perhaps, delivered the request for the “don’t ask, don’t tell Executive Order” to the President.
It is, also, important that the citizens know who are dual citizens and where do they serve the nation. According to the New Democrat, “It’s Time To Ascertain Liberians with Dual Citizenship”.