Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah’s suggestion to amend some provisions in the Constitution to derive a race – friendly law that will tolerate both black and white citizenships in the oldest African republic is stirring a heated debate among citizens, with some voicing their oppositions against the new president’s proposal.
The international soccer legend – turned politician’s suggestion was contained in his first State of the Nation Address on Monday, 29 January when he criticized the country’s constitution for being racist on grounds that it only permits people of negro descent to take Liberian citizenship.
Mr. Weah, the 24th elected president of Liberia who took over from first female African elected president Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on 22 January argues that the threats and conditions that led framers of the country’s constitution to limit citizenship to only blacks no longer exist, thus suggesting the need to amend certain provisions in the law.
But in separate interviews conducted by this paper with a cross session of Liberians on Wednesday, 31 January, some citizens say they disagree with President Weah that the country’s law on citizenship is racist.
This paper spoke with market women, students, medical workers, farmers, teachers and drivers, among others, some of whom are even demanding Mr. Weah to retract his statement.
The aggrieved citizens who include Messrs. Washington Don, Sampson Thomas, Koiboi George, Terry Johnsons and Mamawa Tulay, say the country’s founders made such law to protect the citizens so that their land cannot be overtaken by foreigners.
Opponents to the president’s race – friendly law suggestion are claiming that the Liberian President’s statement does not only bring division among the people but also endangers the peace and security of the citizens living in foreign countries.
They are contending that Liberia is one of the countries in the world where non-citizens and citizens are living together in peace and harmony, compared to other nations.
They note that despite the maltreatment of Liberians by some foreign nationals doing business here, Liberians still live with foreigners without any problem. They argue that in the face of these conditions and circumstances, it would be unfair for foreign nationals to gain citizenship right here.
According to those opposing the president’s suggestion, they would also lead a peaceful protest action at the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill to show cause why Liberia should be considered a country with racist law.
The president’s opponent are reminding him of how foreigners who have children by Liberian women deny their Liberian spouses wealth generated in the country, while in other instances, their children are taken to foreign lands without any guarantee that the Liberian mothers would ever trace those children.
“How can we give these people citizenship right when they are treating us like slaves in our own country? Our fathers are being underpaid for services rendered foreigners, so how much more when they are citizens of the country”, some angry citizens ask.
They maintain that Liberia does not want to have a situation like Zimbabwe where the citizens were compelled to sell their land to foreigners and thereafter became slaves in their own country.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Press Secretary clarified in a radio news broadcast on 30 January that President George Weah’s statement does not serve as an impediment to the country’s development agenda.
By Emmanuel Mondaye–Edited by Winston W. Parley