The first African nation to elect a female president, Liberia and also first independent nation on the continent with the longest democracy in Africa has been inundated in recent time with the` nemesis of ‘dual citizenship’ which many countries including powerful ones too as the United States, Great Britain, Italy, France, India among others face and find it complicated dealing with.
This recent debate saturating Liberia’s political landscape and its Diaspora communities is not unique to this little West African nation of 3.5 million people but almost every modern country is dealing with it and many have dealt with it for a very long time. Liberia only came to be confronted with this paralysis for the first time in recent years because fourteen years of civil unrest and arm conflict had forced its citizens into foreign countries in exile beyond their borders who once found their country comfortable and hardly bothered traveling.
Not bother traveling over to other countries except going for studies abroad for the larger span of the Liberian nationhood, led to the birth of a common saying in the country, ‘born here, die here’ describing Liberians past allergy to traveling and venturing into other countries.
A decade plus years of civil war and carnage in the country forced Liberians into foreign lands for safety and their well-being which the government failed to provide because law and order broke down and anarchy took over governance and blood of fellow compatriots flowed down the streets of the country caused by the mass killings by the national army which should had provided them protection as the constitution mandates the army to do. The a band of ragtag rebels also unleashed on the people, savagery of the first order and no better than the army. These ragtag rebel paradoxically were birthed and nurtured by the current power that be, now governing the country along with other henchmen.
Liberians did not elect to go into foreign lands on their own volition but the break-down of law and order and the collapse of the country to the extent the international community treated the country as a failed state and sent in international armies under the command of the United Nations to maintain the fragile peace and the restore law and order.
There was no governance during the country civil war and as a result of that vacuum, every citizen was responsible for his or her own safety “everybody for him or herself, God for all”, the governance of the jungle. In essence, Liberians did not voluntarily leave their country but their country and government failed to protect them which is the first responsibility of every government….. to ensure the security of its territorial domain and protect its people.
As the country once more crawl to stability after cessation of a prolong civil war and Liberians to stampede back to their homeland, home sick, so longing of home, they are astonishingly being confronted with some sort of make-up constitutional entanglement surreptitiously designed to disbar Liberians who left for their own safety when the country failed to ensure their safety and happiness as enshrined in the very constitution been bamboozled by a few using the tool of intellectual confusion and interpreting the constitution to selfishly satisfy their greed and disenfranchise their fellow compatriots coming from abroad who they see as potential threats to “take their job as they put it”.
Today, Liberians living abroad and their children are being tossed by a made-up constitutional provision of “dual citizenship”. Liberians who as the result of their country been a failed state for a long time and were forced to develop themselves in the countries they found themselves and took advantage of the opportunities which came their way, becoming citizens of the countries they fled to and using those very opportunities to contribute to the growth and development of their country, are being punished for finding safety and pulling the opportunities they met abroad to develop their country……. that’s nationalism.
It is viciously argued and used against these Liberians in the Diaspora that by virtue of becoming citizens of that country fled for safety and their development, they have automatically lost their Liberian citizenship and no longer Liberians.
Proponents insist that Liberia does not support dual citizenship. The anti-dual citizenship gate that is being erected to block Liberians coming from abroad to contribute their full potential to the development of their homeland and fellow countrymen is thoughtlessly pivoted on the 1973 immigration laws which consider Liberians who naturalized and became citizens of another countries, no longer citizens of Liberia…. they have forfeited their Liberian citizenship. Serving in a foreign military disbar a Liberian of their citizenship if they served a foreign army even if that citizen did not become citizen of that foreign army they served. These are the few of the many thoughtless and unconstitutional provision legislated into law upon which few unscrupulous Liberians make their basis
It is these statutes that proponents of anti-dual citizenship are hammering to prevent their own brothers and sisters from enjoying their natural and blood lineage to their motherland.
The debate is becoming so tense and toxic such that country Legislature has promised to solve the problem by developing a bill of some sort of dual citizenship because they believe, indeed, the country’s 1986 constitution does not support dual citizenship.
On the contrary, to the Liberian Legislature and broader Liberian public, the 1986 constitution in fact supports dual citizenship.
The 1986 constitution of Liberia in support of dual citizenship states in the following:
CITIZENSHIP Article 27
a) All persons who, on the coming into force of this Constitution were lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian citizens.
b) In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.
c) The Legislature shall, adhering to the above standard, prescribe such other qualification criteria for the procedures by which naturalization may be obtained.
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”.
The last portion of article 28 of the Liberian constitution reads; “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”.
By virtue of this part of article 28 of the Liberian constitution eluded above, indeed the country’s constitution in fact dictates that a Liberian can become citizen of another country and change his or her nationality. The constitution also warns that no Liberian can be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality.
With this constitutional provision, it is a myth that Liberians who naturalized and became citizens of other countries do so in conformity with the constitution and therefore by no means they would be forfeiting their Liberian citizenship.
The constitution, like all other country constitution is the supreme law of the land and no law supersedes it. The 1973 immigration laws, a statue passed by legislation can never override the constitution and therefore, consistent with article 2 of the 1986 Liberian constitution which state that every law should be consistent with the constitution and any law found to be inconsistent with the constitution, to the extent of the inconsistency , such law shall be nulled and void and with no legal effect.
The constitution also empowers the Supreme Court as final arbiter of justice as a conduit to declare such inconsistent law unconstitutional and consequently illegal and of no effect.
The 1973 Liberian immigration law therefore, is unconstitutional and has no legal effect because it is a statue which overrides the constitution, the supreme and organic law of the country and cannot be used to disbar other Liberians of their Liberian citizenship who, not of their own volition, fled into foreign land for safety when their own country could not guarantee their safety.
The 1973 immigration law of Liberia was ignorantly or selfishly written in different times and under different constitution not in existence today as well as during different political circumstances. When the 1973 immigration laws were enacted, the country political culture was not equipped with the sophistication that exist in the country, and governance and politics belonged to a powerful privilege few and whatever they said was a Pharaoh’s decree.
The rest of the country was kept out of political participation and therefore were not prone to the precepts of politics and therefore could not grasp the toxicity of the un-constitutionality of that law to challenge it.
Even if a handful of a privilege educated Liberians had seen the danger of such bad laws and had taken steps to prevent it from becoming law by challenging it at the Supreme Court, under the prevailing circumstances at the time and considering a Liberian justice system which has no record of independence, would had dispensed justice in the interest of the nation and struck it down.
Now that Liberians have grown and sophisticated so fast attributed to the horrible experiences of violence for many decades, those Liberians who naturalized and became citizens of another countries including well-meaning Liberians is to take advantage of tools available to them.
The many tools which Liberians who are being disbarred of their natural heritage to their homeland are as follow:
- Challenge the constitutionality of 1973 immigration law to the Supreme Court since it overrides the constitution, the supreme and organic law of the law, the litmus test which every law or statue must pass to be legal.
- Mobilize resources and work with the Liberian Legislature to provide a pragmatic path to resolving this controversy; they are already showing sign of interest to finding resolution by taking the viable path by impressing upon them to repeal the 1973 immigration law
- Mobilize and gather 10,000 petitions consistent with the constitution and submit a bill to the Liberian Legislature to repeal the 1973 immigration law
The present approach the Liberian Senate is currently pursuing is a waste of time and resources because it is unnecessary because the constitution acknowledges dual citizenship articulated in article 28; all the legislature should do is, repeal the unconstitutional and bogus 1973 immigration law.
Repealing the 1973 immigration law is no brainer, it is the safest, legal, thoughtful, and easy way to get the man-made dual citizenship debacle to rest and re-enforce their fellow countrymen natural inheritance to their homeland.
Liberia has come of age and the world has changed, the prevailing circumstances and human conditions of today cannot accommodate the country’s 1973 immigration law which intentionally disbar its own citizens of their citizenship because they became citizens of other countries though the country’s constitution give them right to do so and does not penalize them in any way and further warns they cannot be denied the right to change nationality and citizenship to another country.
Liberians who became citizens of other countries have never abandoned their motherland; they have contributed immensely to the country’s development and economy. In 2010, Liberians living abroad remitted $65 million (sixty-five million United States dollars) to their country and climbed to a whapping $360 million in 2012 and $372 million, according to a UNDP Human Development Report of 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively, the latter making Liberian Diaspora remittance the highest in the world per country’s GDP. This contribution is one of such responsibilities a citizen is required to perform and participating in political activities of their country requirements a citizen must perform. Citizenship attained by natural birth and blood lineage cannot be taken away from citizens, it is his or her citizenship because it is God-given. No man has the power and right to disbar any natural born and blood lineage Liberian citizen of his or her citizenship……. it is God- given, not man- “man did not give, and man can not take away”
Liberia does not have the capacity, infrastructure, resources and sophistication to administer and enforce dual citizenship even if the constitution had explicitly frowned on dual citizenship.
Dual citizenship is a nemesis for all countries, including the United States and it is so complicated to the extent that they do not tamper with dual citizenship because they attempted many time as far back 1898 in the first known case in “U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898″) and the United Supreme Court rule;
“14th Amendment, which states that all persons born (or naturalized) in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens. Although the original motivation for this language in the 14th Amendment was to secure citizenship for the freed Negro slaves, the court held that the clause clearly applied to “all persons”, regardless of their race or national origin”. The United States lost the case to Wong.
The United States also attempted several times to disbar its citizens of their US citizenship right for reason it saw it fit and in one case enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act:-1898 but that immigration law was challenged in the United States Supreme Court and the “court rejected outright the idea that the Chinese could be singled out for special treatment in this respect.
“To hold that the fourteenth amendment of the constitution excludes from citizenship the children born in the United States of citizens or subjects of other countries,” the majority wrote, “would be to deny citizenship to thousands of persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German, or other European parentage, who have always been considered and treated as citizens of the United States.”
Today as the result of the challenges of the dual citizenship complication, the United States has abandoned any effort aimed at wrestling dual citizenship and now in plain terms on the State Department’s traveler advisory website acknowledging that the United States recognizes dual citizenship.
If the United States which is so powerful, rich, and sophisticated cannot get their hands around the complexity and complications of dual citizenship and called it hands-off, how can Liberia get its hands around it?
Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, Nigeria, Namibia, among others, all have a dual citizenship provision in their constitutions as Liberia does but what is different is these countries re-enforce theirs and do not use it as a wedge against their own people for selfish ends.
The Liberia 1986 constitution supports dual citizenship but how an entire country got it wrong?