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Whites Born in Liberia Push for Liberian Citizenship

‘The Face of America in Africa’ Must End Constitutional Racism

 

Originally posted: 07/30/2012 2:17 pm
Founded in 1822 to free the black slaves of America, the Liberian constitution makes it mandatory for citizens of Liberia to be black

Rima Merhi

of African descent. I am one of many white children born in Liberia to non-African parents and denied nationality and citizenship rights due to the color of my skin and roots.

But the “face of America in Africa” cannot legalize racism, as it runs contrary to the values of Christianity, liberty, and tolerance that define the heart of Liberia, a nation born from America, its mother. No country in Africa embraces America like Liberia. The Liberians have close kinship ties to America and are inspired by American political figures, particularly President Barack Obama. The Liberian national flag bears a close resemblance to the American flag with just one star, and American culture is very popular, with the Liberian market flooded with bestselling American brands.

Liberia today lies at a crossroads: Either it will continue to live in the past or find more progressive ways to preserve its identity, culture, and roots without alienating its white non-African children.

As it stands, there are no reliable statistics to determine the number of people who are affected by this constitutional discrimination. But Liberia is native home to many Europeans, Americans, and Arabs. Most severely affected are the Lebanese people born in Liberia, and this is a very serious issue for Liberia, given that the economy is largely dominated by Lebanese traders and businessmen who have been in Liberia since the 1960s.

“When all the Liberians were leaving the country as a result of the war, we, the Lebanese, stayed here to keep our businesses running,” said a Lebanese businessman who has spent 50 years in Liberia. “We pay our taxes like any Liberian. We respect their laws, we make investments in the economy, but after all this time I can’t effect any decision that impacts my life or own more than the trouser on me.”

Despite the atrocities of a 14-year civil war that raged until 2003, a nation that refuses to sell its land cannot sell its children. Having grown up in Liberia, I’ve seen many Liberian families sell their children to non-African white families to work as maids and nannies in their homes, due to extreme poverty. One maid I know lived with a family outside Liberia for over 30 years, and when she decided to come home to Liberia to marry and start a family, she died giving birth, due to poor hygiene and medical services.

Last year, I visited my childhood home in the capital Monrovia. The lease had ended during the bloody Liberian civil war, a time when no one was able to enter or leave Liberia, and with it was lost the family home we had kept for decades. I was deeply saddened to see our house in a completely worn-out state and our supermarket locked with huge metallic bars. This corner used to bustle with people, beggars, and saleswomen, and had my father continued to own the premises, there is no way we would have turned a blind eye to a place that is so precious to us on both a personal and professional level.

Liberia must take serious steps to amend this constitutional discrimination. A review of the outdated constitution will reinforce Liberia’s commitment to international human-rights laws and norms and allow it to become a more progressive, credible actor on the world stage. At the same time, this shift in government policy would encourage greater investments in the country at a time when Liberia remains one of the poorest five countries in the world; it would also allow Liberia to benefit from the skills, education, and expertise of a second generation of Lebanese youth who are, as it stands, important players in the economic survival of Liberia, given that the majority of Lebanese living in Liberia set up family-owned businesses over the years.

Going forward, there is clearly a need for the UN to set up a committee of experts made up of Liberians and whites of non-African origin to revise the Liberian constitution and make recommendations. These revisions must include a plan to develop the national identity of Liberia, and a financial strategy to empower Liberians in the long run. There is also a dire need to collect statistics about the people who are affected by these discriminatory provisions in the constitution.

To President Johnson Sirleaf (a Harvard alumna) and President Obama, I say my time at Harvard and in America taught me to speak up and fight for human dignity and life. No constitution in the world should be allowed to discriminate against its people for the color of their skin or their origin, especially not the face of America in Africa.

About the Author:

Freelance journalist, former human-rights fellow, and consultant at Harvard

Courtesy: Huffington Post

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Categorised in: NEWS, SPORTS

25 Responses »

  1. I don’t get it, we Liberians want to be citizens of other countries, but the Constitution is still holding down others Liberians because they are “white”? that is #racism to me, if we say we want to be citizens of other countries, we should give and take… the Constitution is racist, it is still living in the past….

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  2. The Law in Liberia is the Law. Why do Black African Countries always have to bend and change at the wishes of Whites? You Blacks in Liberia or any other country will not get Visa, will not get jobs, and will not be allowed to enter the U.S or Europe any easier if you give up all your sovereign rights. And don’t say Liberia is living in the past when since 2004, no European country grants unconditional birthright citizenship. France, Britain, Spain, Sweden, or many other do not allow jus soli. Liberia adheres to jus sanguinis just like so many others in the world. So why are all the attacks?

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  3. I agree with this brother very well, we all travel and see and know that nothing is like your own country, we all face discrimination in other countries as well, but we cannot tell them to change the constitution. People came to Liberia to make money, but not to change our law. So we Liberian will not agree to changing our constitution for the reason of people getting citizenship at the end they all come and buy all our land, at the end Liberia can not buy land in their own country, because foreigner buy all the land.
    Can Liberia go to these people country as disciple of Christ to buy land? If any non Liberian talk about changing our constitution, it is only for their own benefit and to used us in our own country. even if they marry to Liberia women or men they can not own land alone. we should not forget that some one is at the back who, giving these people the money to buy land in Liberia and then buy our country as they did in other African country and the citizen is suffering.. The foreigner who came with money to buy land is to used the Liberia citizen in the own country. Liberia people, open your eyes do not let money make you to sail your country. They just want to used our country for the changing of constitution for their own contact point, so that we can be like some African countries etc.. No way.
    If Liberia is a poor country leave us alone, we are not poor, and we are no more bl, our eyes are open. This is nonsense as the brother said for real; Liberia is a sovereign nation and we as citizens will never honor such a proposal. If he was born in Liberia and don’t meet Article 27 (b) requirement of the Liberian Constitution-being of a “Negro Descent” he better lobby with the Liberian people for a constitutional referendum to amend that provision. The day the United Nations decides to impose on Liberia such white influence or negotiation, we will demand for reparation from America for enslaving and dehumanizing our forebears.

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  4. AGREE WITH THE AUTHOR…….Constitution needs some of its provisions amended but I don’t think this corrupt Gov is foreseeing such brilliant thoughts….

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  6. I agree with the author in some respect and differ in another. I think the Liberian Constitution needs some of its provisions amended. One major problem is, the reason the colony gave for stipulating the Nero Clause in the 1847 Constitution is quite different from the reason given by the Amos Sawyer 1984 Constitution Committee. Follow me on Facebook to read the rest of my argument at ( http://www.facebook.com/ #!/groups/futureofliberia/). Scroll down and you will see a topic: THE NEED AND REASONS TO REPEAL THE RACIAL PROVISION IN OUR 1986 CONSTITUTION. However, I disagree with the author especially where he said United Nations (UN) should set up a committee comprising of Liberians and white Americans to amend the Liberia Constitution. This is nonsense; Liberia is a sovereign nation and we as citizens will never honor such a proposal. If he was born in Liberia and don’t meet Article 27 (b) requirement of the Liberian Constitution-being of a “Negro Descent” he better lobby with the Liberian people for a constitutional referendum to amend that provision. The day the United Nations decides to impose on Liberia such white influence or negotiation, we will demand for reparation from America for enslaving and dehumanizing our forebears.

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