For four years going, Liberia’s superficial dual citizenship debate is becoming ever louder and as that tiny African nation with 43,00 sq miles and over a little over 3 million people prepares for another election in 2017, the Liberian political stratosphere and several hyper-active social media groups with a combined membership of over 100,000 is again taking center stage. What is intriguing about the looping dual citizenship debate is that both sides, proponents and antagonists, have yet to take the time and do an in depth study of the Liberian constitution and statutes as well as the countless international treaties the country is party to and reconcile them with the purpose of ensuring conflict does not exist with the stances they take and whether it is constitutional, statutorily sound, and politically prudent consistent with contemporary realities.
But in the midst of this superficial debate, with antagonists preying on nationalism, sentiments, biases, and outright insinuations steeped in personal opinions and on the other hand, proponents gowned in innocent naïvety, trying to solve a problem which does not exist with a self-manufactured problem. Consequently, both sides are blind-sided with the reality that the current President, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically elected female President is herself a dual citizen with both Liberian and German citizenships. With a dual citizen President in the Executive Mansion on Capitol Hill, why the superficial debate dual citizenship is all about and efforts to deny other Liberians who have acquired citizenships of other countries their native Liberian citizenship?
The staunch resistance from antagonists of Liberia’s superficial dual citizenship debate are parading their argument as if the country’s constitution carved in stone the prohibition of dual citizenship and any Liberia of dual citizen status automatically forego their native Liberian citizenship whereas proponents of dual citizenship equally make their case with the mindset that there is no constitutional guarantee of dual citizenship and therefore take their case to the Liberian Legislature seeking legislative enactment of dual citizenship which could consequently lead to constitutional referendum.
The stance and action each party to debate are pursuing leaves the notion that the current President, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the occupant of the country’s most valuable real estate, the Executive Mansion in violation of the law because she holds both a Liberian and German citizenships by virtue of being a daughter of a Liberian mother and a German father.
In contrast reality of the ensuing superficial dual citizenship debate, the Liberian constitution in fact guarantees dual citizen in article 28 of the 1986 Article 28 constitution which reads as follow;
“Any person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the Person’s birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia; provided that any such person shall upon reaching maturity renounce any other citizenship acquired by virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country. 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”.
There is no provision in the Liberian constitution prohibiting Liberian acquiring citizenship of another but rather on the contrary, Liberians are protected by the constitution to acquire citizenship of other countries and forbids any government from preventing Liberians their right to acquire citizenship of foreign countries as noted in the last lines of article 28, “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 constitution can not conflict itself and therefore does not penalize a Liberian citizen who acquires another countries citizenship or nationality it guarantees can are protected to do so and can not be deprived of pursing that right.
The first and second Lines of article 28 are which read, “Any person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the Person’s birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia; provided that any such person shall upon reaching maturity renounce any other citizenship acquired by virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country” are analogous to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who was born of a Liberian mother and a German father. Under article 28 of the constitution, lines one and two that once born of one Liberian parent and the other parent is a foreign citizen, the Liberian child enjoys the citizenship of both countries and that is dual citizenship but are to renounce the citizenship of their other foreign parent upon reaching maturity (18 years old). The constitution falls short of any caveat as to what happens to that mature child who enjoyed dual citizenship of both parents from birth until maturity if he or she fails to renounce the other parent citizenship.
There is no record in Liberia showing that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf renounced her dual citizenship upon reaching maturity, neither did she furnish or is the National Election Commission is in possession of documentation of President Sirleaf ‘renunciation’ document renouncing her German citizenship by virtue of being a daughter of a German father in keeping with article 28 of the constitution.
President Sirleaf by default, continues to enjoy her dual citizenships of both a Liberian and German just as she enjoyed it from her birth to maturity until she was required to renounce but did not do and is today Liberia’s President. Why then is the superficial ongoing dual citizenship debate when the constitution guarantees it and the country currently has a President who has dual citizenship?
The ranging dual citizenship debate is surprisingly to many Liberian not rooted in the constitution but an ill-will 1973 immigration Act which is the offspring of United States 1952 immigration law which condemned it to the gas chamber by the United States Supreme Court, ruling it unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the 1973 immigration law too has never been challenged in court and most importantly minted under old 1847 constitution which is no longer in existence and is diametrically inconsistent with the current 1986 constitution, specifically article 28.
The constitution is the supreme law of any land and therefore no subordinate statute like the 1973 immigration law enacted statutorily can not overwhelm the Liberian constitution and sabotage any clause or article.. doing so will believe such legislative enactment unconstitutional and illegal, empowering the Supreme Court of the country to rule such law unconstitutional when brought before that honorable body and such law is no and void upon its birth. Unfortunately, 41 years after the ill-will 1973 immigration law passed into law it has never been challenged in the Supreme Court and just as it was hashed under ill-will, ill-will politicians, political leaders, and élite few are manipulating ordinary Liberians into creating a wedge between other Liberians who exercised their constitutional right to acquire the citizenship of other countries as the result of the of breakdown of law and order predicated on the country’s over 14 years of war to serve as a buffer to prevent Liberians from abroad with the qualification and zeal to change their country from the current looting spree befitting their country. Astoundingly, those very Liberian ruling class and élite few themselves hold dual citizenship, many of them hold American citizenship, from top to bottom.
There is no basis for any Liberia to create a superficial dual citizenship debate when the constitution in fact guarantees it and resists any government or people to forbid it and therefore, based on this constitution guarantee, Liberians should in fact coalesce their effort and resources to challenging the ill-will and unconstitutional 1973 immigration law to trash it into the dust bin of bad legislative enactment annuals.
Liberia’s Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization itself see the 1973 immigration law troublesome and leaderships of Commissioner Chris Massaquoi and Deputy Commissioner Abla Gardegbeku, requested the American Bar Association (ABA)to look into the law and give its legal analysis and recommendations. In May 2009, the ABA came up with its findings in a 70 page report on the 1973 immigration and concludes that the law is racist and only suited for the dark ages, conflicting all legal tuitions and Liberia’s international obligation to the many international treaties including refugee and migration, disabilities laws , among others.
The campaign by some Liberians to deny their compatriots the native citizenship for acquiring a foreign citizenship has no legal basis a because acquiring a foreign citizenship by naturalization by a Liberian is a personal decision and it is only that person has to choose not to be a Liberia. A natural-born citizen of any country can not be stripe of his or her citizenship, it is a an “inalienable right’ – “God give” and no man or earthly government can take it away and it is that mantra article 28 of the Liberian constitution protects a Liberian who acquires foreign citizenship.
Acquiring foreign citizenship is no way a conduit a Liberian loses his native citizenship his or her native citizenship is inalienable and can’t never be taken away by any action, crime committed, government or earthly man.
The puzzle antagonists of the superficial dual citizenship debate are yet to come grasp with is do they consider the over US$700,000,000.00 remittances Liberians in the Diaspora sent into the country’s economy in 2011 and 2012 collectively, a ‘dual citizenship money’ and stop it from entering the country and supporting the economy they are not benefiting from?
It is a highest level of hypocrisy from some Liberians who pounce on their fellow countrymen though they break no law and immensely give the country’s economy by the huge remittances, the largest in the world according to United Nations Human Development 2011 and 2012 reports, contributing to third of the country’s GDP to deny them their inalienable right to their native citizenship. The countries whose citizenships Liberians acquired and guaranteed by the constitution, recognize the native citizenship of those naturalized Liberians because one native citizenship, which is ‘inalienable’ (God given), can not be taken away. No Liberian has abandoned his country when he or she acquired the citizenship of a foreign country and this clear by the massive economic contribution they send to the country and the businesses and giantnomous infrastructural development they are undertaking, providing jobs and active partners in the reconstruction of the country.
The ill-will and unconstitutional 1973 dual citizenship is a meaningless piece of legislation which can not be enforced because the country does not have the resources, capacity, infrastructure, and sophistication to enforce such law but pretending to enforce it will be done selective using witch-hunting and any law which is equitably enforced is no law.
Dual citizenship is not unique to Liberia, every has dealt with it from time to time any is more complex of an issue now than it was years back because the world has condensed into a ‘global village’ or a ‘click’ by the advancement in technology. Wealthy and sophisticated as the United States recognizes how cumbersome and complex dual citizenship and after challenged for many years and in most instances lost their cases against case at the United States Supreme Court, the government is lay back on the issue and recognizes the native citizenship of a naturalized American but cautions that if that American travels to his country, his native citizenship takes precedence in keeping with international law (www.usstatedepartment.travel.gov).
If all is said and done, Liberians should be the last people on the African continent to fuel the myth of superficial dual citizenship debate, attempting to deny their fellow countrymen their inalienable right to Liberian citizenship against the guarantee and protection of the constitution to do so. Liberia has the best known immigrant background.
ABA Analysis on Liberia’s 1973 Immigration Law