LIBERIAN JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY
“Liberia’s Dual Citizenship Debate: Assessing Patriotism, Loyalty and National Allegiance” Dialogue for Democracy Series Quarterly Publication of Liberia Democracy Watch (LDW)
May-July 2010 1
TABLE OF CONTENT
THE PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGE OF DUAL CITIZENSHIP IN LIBERIA (PAILEY)
LIBERIA’S RE-EMERGING FAULT-LINES- REVISTING THE DUAL CITZENSHIP DEBATE (TOE)
MICROSCOPING THE INSTITUTION OF A DUAL CITIZENSHIP REGIME IN LIBERIA (WILLIAMS)
APPENDIX: COPY OF THE DRAFT BILL BEFORE THE LIBERIAN SENATE
For this edition of the publication, LDW is grateful to the following contributors, Ms. Robtel N. Pailey for the permission to reprint her policy brief on Dual citizenship question, Mr. Sam Toe, formerly of the Civic Initiative (CI) now a staff at Human Rights office of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL); LDW expresses gratitude to Mr. Elliott Wleh Wilson who contributed an article to this debate from the Diaspora, adding that (Diaspora) perspective to the debate.
The Watch is particularly grateful to itâ€™s wonderful staff persons who continually ensure the success of this program including the editing and printing of the Journal. Very special mention s hereby made to the support and cooperation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for the immeasurable support to this project and other precedent activities that have lasted for a little over ten (10) years
With support from:
ABOUT LDW Liberia democracy watch was established in 1997 in the build up to the July 1997 elections which was to climax the war in Liberia. The organization, founded by a collection of university graduates envisioned a society devoid of socio-political abuses, corruption and weaning respect for the rule of law. LDW remains committed to promoting and fostering good governance, through the building of a democratic culture based on the respect for human rights and the perpetuation of the rule of law. In LDW’s bid to influence national debates it hosted, in collaboration with the FORD Foundation the firstever international conference held under the theme “Beyond State Failure and Collapse: Making the State Relevant in Africa” . This conference brought together an array of intellectuals and politicians from the US, Liberia and other parts of Africa. LDW is governed by a Board of Directors that meets twice yearly. Members of the Board are a select group of eminent Liberians with proven interest in the Liberia’s socio-political processes and who reside both at home and abroad. Members of the board residing outside Liberia serve the crucial role of assisting in resource mobilization and establishing critical international partnership links. LDW’s Executive team is headed by a Director who supervises the daily administration of the organization. The Director is closely assisted by a Program Officer and other staff person including a team of volunteers. LDW is not a mass based organization, meaning that membership is selective. LDW is a founding member of the National Human Rights Center of Liberia (NHRCL) and a cooperating entity with very many Liberian civil society groups including the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD), Center or Democratic Empowerment (CEDE),) and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC). In line with the organization’s mandate, its activities in Liberia’s democratic renewal and development include but not limited to the following thematic areas: •
Governance and Elections Research
Human Rights Education, Advocacy and Documentation
Peace Building, and Social Renewal
Contact: George Wah Williams Executive Director, Liberia Democracy Watch, Gibson Building P. O. Box 5114, Broad Street, Monrovia. Liberia Cell: +231-651-3037/+231-583-0130 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/ Website: www.liberiademocracywatch.org 4
FORWARD: On April 12, 2006, LDW formally launched the “Dialogue for Democracy” public discussion series. The intent of this effort is to bring together Liberians with knowledge and experience to speak openly on issues affecting the sanctity of the state especially those affecting or with the potential to affect the post-elections environment. By this undertaking, LDW would have provided a viable means to generate lasting solutions to national problems. As a strategy, the dialogue employs a tripartite format, bringing together government, civil society and non-ruling political parties’ actors to ensure several objectives are met. Critical among the dialogue’s strategies’ is the need to ensure the continuous engagement of non-ruling political parties’ in national debates. The series also seeks to strengthen the interaction between various political institutions in Liberia and to implant the new reality that government is not alone in the national decision-making process. This second edition of the Liberian Journal of Democracy published by Liberia Democracy Watch(LDW) since 2006 is a compilation of varying viewpoints on critical issues of national significance intended to provide an intellectual, insightful, in-depth appreciation to their greater Liberian public so as engender a higher level of participation based on informed knowledge and experience. Carved under the theme: “Liberia’s Dual
Citizenship Debate: Assessing Patriotism, Loyalty and National Allegiance,” this edition seeks to provide a platform, as is the intent for other editions, whereby (non) state actors together can bring to the table perspectives aimed at ensuring the protection of Liberia’s interest , heritage and image. As a debate with propensity to influencing the body polity of the country, actors such as LDW are concerned about the implications of such a law and its eventual impact on the lives of ordinary Liberians. To this end, the topic was carve to bring some revealing perspectives from the Diaspora, local and international viewpoints to inform policy and law makers as well as, eventual beneficiaries of a dual citizenship regime and the implications thereof.
To you the reader, the following presentations are meant to stimulate your inquisition to join the national debate and proffer your own suggestions to the national actors and the public on the way forward. For it is in honest dialoguing that Liberia can be built and strengthened. To promote a culture of dialogue and openness, Liberians and non-Liberians alike, must partner in such a very important process of national debate as a way to reducing national discontent and promoting a culture of cooperation in Liberia. Please send LDW your comments on how this journal can better serve you
PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES TO DUAL CITIZENSHIP IN LIBERIA: Robtel Neajai Pailey: Ms. Pailey currently serves in the office of the President of Republic of Liberia Special Assistant for Communications at the Ministry of State/ Office of the President of Liberia. A graduate of Howard University in Washington with a 3.89 GPA, She was an Assistant Editor of the Washington Informer and conducted several interviews including book commentaries especially about situations and policies affecting Liberians. She is regarded as a “gifted Liberian female writer who is very passionate about her country” Liberia’s recently ended 14-year civil war devastated one of West Africa’s most promising nations, and destabilized an entire region. It also killed an estimated 200,0001 of the standing three million population. In the first year of the war alone, as many as 700,0002 Liberians fled the country, many of them to neighboring Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria. Those who were able to escape to further corners of the world scattered throughout the Diaspora like germinating seeds, in the United States and elsewhere, in what was a devastating blow to the intellectual capacity of the country. In effect, ‘Nearly 30 percent of Liberians with tertiary education left in 1990, and nearly 40 percent left in 2000, according to a World Bank study.3 As a result of the entrenchment of political stability and the 2005 landmark elections that brought Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to power, many Diaspora Liberians are returning to the country in small waves, while others continue to act as development conduits in their capacities as neglected agents of change. Diaspora Liberians are key in promoting in-country development through individual and collective efforts in their various communities abroad. This role, which has remained largely underutilized in a structured and coordinated manner by the Liberian Government, is having a major impact on poverty eradication programs in the country, through large-scale remittance flows, transfer of knowledge programs, and investment capital. In Liberia, it is becoming increasingly important to channel the resources of these future migrants to work in tandem with Government’s reconstruction agenda, especially now that the full Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy is underway. Some argue that one of the conduits for securing Diaspora buy-in for the successful implementation of Lift Liberia, or any other national development plan that will inevitably follow it, is through constitutional channels that support their constant engagement with their country of origin, even if they have assumed other nationalities. In many respects, dual citizenship is becoming the norm rather than the exception in developing nations, allowing for Diaspora nationals to retain country of birth citizenship while also holding citizenships of nations to which they have migrated. Liberia has joined this trend by introducing its own proposed dual citizenship legislation. The premise of this proposed Act is the fluidity of the country’s Constitution as a living document, subject to changes in contemporary trends, norms, and realities. Many argue that the 1986 construction of the amended Liberian Constitution does not lend itself to present day realities, and as such, must be recalled and revised. In their proposed Act to Establish Dual Citizenship for Liberians by Birth and Background, four Senators of Liberia’s National Legislature, namely Cletus Segbe Wotorson (Senior Senator, Grand Kru County), Sumo G. Kupee (Senior Senator, Lofa County), Jewel Howard-Taylor (Senior Senator, Bong County), and Abel Massalay (Senior Senator, Grand Cape Mount County), propose amendments to certain sections of the Aliens and Nationality Laws of Liberia to grant dual citizenship to Liberians by birth who have naturalized elsewhere, and Liberians born outside of Liberia whose parents were Liberian citizens at their birth. The idea of nationhood has been violently contested in Liberia because the country has always been a migratory nation from its official founding in 1847, and the proposed amendments to the Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia would entrench 1
Saul, 2007. Gberie, 2005. 3 Clark, 2006. 2
that reality, making it possible for thousands of Liberians naturalized elsewhere to retain their citizenship. Given the heightened tensions that existed between Liberia’s founding settler class and its indigent population and the contemporary tensions that exist between post-conflict returnees and non-returnees in Liberia, this Act would have to be scrutinized within a historical backdrop. Although the intention of the drafters of the Act to expand citizenship may seem well-intentioned, straight-forward, and logical, there are a number of considerations and peculiarities about Liberia that must be deconstructed and examined. Inasmuch as lawmakers enact policies based on legal and socio-economic parameters, public opinion tends to sway voting and decision-making in the 21st century world of lobbying and political posturing. As such, public opinion and the politics of the day inevitably will determine how the Liberian Legislature treats the controversial dual citizenship bill currently in a Committee Room. In cases where dual citizenship has been passed within the sub-region, namely in Sierra Leone and Ghana, it took nearly five years in each case for dual citizenship to gain the momentum and attention that it garnered. A similar fate could await Liberia. Responses to amendments of the Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia have ranged from staunch opposition to constitutional manipulation, to unwavering support of constitutional change. It is clear although there are socio-economic benefits to dual citizenship, there are also political, psychological, emotional, and cultural considerations that muddy the waters, complicating the issue beyond just a pro-con debate. Dual Citizenship Opportunities
It is rather interesting to note that responses to the proposed dual citizenship bill have run the gamut, and often reflect the traditional reasons for or against dual citizenship that have been offered since the first case of dual citizenship concerning a Jewish American national in the late 1960s.4 Many respondents have cited the common push-pull theory proffered by migration theorists, which states that migration occurs because external factors push nationals into other locales, such as civil war in the case of Liberia, or pull them to locations for specific socio-economic reasons, such as obtaining an advanced level degree, in the case of Liberians who left the country in the 70s and 80s. Both the push and pull phenomenon, respondents argue, support the practical realization of dual citizenship for Liberia: One respondent argued that fleeing Liberia and not naturalizing elsewhere creates a double jeopardy scenario in which certain privileges of nationality become elusive. In the same vein, naturalizing elsewhere and being forced to relinquish one’s Liberian citizenship is also punishment for essentially the same theoretical ‘crime.’ Dual citizenship, this person argues, ensures that Liberians who naturalize elsewhere cannot be punished twice. A number of respondents cited regional neighbors as examples of what Liberia should emulate. Other African countries, namely Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda, within the past 10 years enacted dual citizenship bills and can boast of increases in GDP, investment, and infrastructural development. Whether or not one can attribute these socio-economic changes mostly to the enactment of dual citizenship is still questionable, proponents of dual citizenship tend to highlight the inevitable correlation. Other supporters of the proposed bill highlight the country’s national development plan currently being implemented, the Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy, as a practical solution to Liberia’s capacity constraints. The results of the first year of implementation of Lift Liberia in April 2009 revealed that capacity in crucial areas such as engineering, project management, and policy formulation decreased implementation to a dismal 18%.5 Since then, however, a 90-Day Action Plan fast
Dual Citizenship—Loyal to Whom? (Dan Eiden) Lift Liberia 1st Year Results, April 2009 (Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs, RL)
tracked key deliverables to 88%6 implementation. For some respondents, the psychological connections to one’s homeland, the notion of belonging, of being ‘of Liberia’ but not ‘in Liberia’ deserve consideration. In the same vein, others have cited cultural continuity and heritage mapping as a reason for granting citizenship to young people of Liberian ancestry not born in Liberia but whose parents were Liberian citizens at the time of their birth. Homi Bhabha’s post-colonial construction of the term ‘hybridity”7 is particularly telling here, as dual citizens remain essentially doubly inscribed, representing the best and the worst of the societies that mold them. Dual citizenship is also theoretically similar to African American scholar W.E.B. DuBois’ notion of “double-consciousness”, 8 the idea of two-ness, existing and functioning in two worlds simultaneously. Dual Citizenship Challenges Dual citizenship for any nation is a complicated matter, especially in post conflict countries such as Liberia where political unrest, civil strife, and violent fissures in the social fabric inevitably rupture the notion of nationhood. In the 21st century world of trans-nationalism, rapid migration and globalization, many Liberians argue that the “love of Liberty” divided the country into those who retained their Liberian citizenship for personal and political reasons, and those who traded their citizenship in for what could be perceived as socioeconomic advancement. As in the poem, “The Loaded Dice” by J.J. Kpana, respondents who questioned the merits of the amendments to the Aliens and Nationality Laws of Liberia were the most instructive and visceral, bringing to bear some practical considerations that perhaps the drafters of the amended 1986 Constitution and the drafters of the proposed amendments to the Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia may or may not have anticipated. First, the proposed bill does not adequately address certain issues such as multi-citizenship and limitations on holding political office. Most importantly, the proposed bill does not address ‘the elephant in the room,’ a particular clause within the original 1847 Liberian Constitution that mandates only individuals of ‘Negro’ descent can become citizens, and by extension, own land. A revision of Liberia’s nationality laws without mention of the “Negro clause” and an interrogation of the holding of political office for dual citizens is problematic because it does not pointedly address contentious issues that have continuously divided Liberia’s populace. Furthermore, the proposed dual citizenship bill appears to privilege, whether intentionally or unintentionally, one group of Liberians over another, which is a microcosm of the contemporary debate over the high salary ranges of Liberians from the Diaspora who have returned to inhabit positions of power or stature. The bill also does not make provisions for “DNA Diaspora.” In the case of Ghana, where AfricanAmericans (DNA Diaspora) or residents of Ghana who have lived in the country for a protracted period of time can gain citizenship, this is the next step in a logical progression. In Liberia, however, where post-conflict reconstruction is the order of the day, it may be more important to focus energies on building the capacities of Liberians in-country without granting unnecessary advantages to those who otherwise may have had opportunities of advancement elsewhere. Other considerations include the prospect of divided loyalties. The old adage of “one foot in, one foot out,” is particularly instructive here because it complicates the dual citizenship debate even further, bringing to bear the very practical questions of national security, loyalty, and patriotism. It has been argued that Liberia’s fragile peace and security, one of the Pillars of the Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy, would be compromised 6
90-Day Deliverables Results, November 2009 (Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs, RL) The Location of Culture (Homi Bhabha, 1994) 8 The Souls of Black Folk (W.E.B. DuBois, 1903) 7
because dual citizenship could incubate intra-country terrorism, fraud, embezzlement and the abuse of state power. If the principle argument supporting dual citizenship is that the drafters of Liberia’s Constitution never anticipated the 14-year crisis, then it would be fair to say that an amendment to Liberia’s naturalization laws should support, if absolutely necessary, those Liberians who obtained citizenship during civil strife and postconflict reconstruction. The enforceability of this, however, would take considerable time and energy. One could argue convincingly, however, that Liberia’s lack of dual citizenship is an excuse for many Diaspora Liberians to sit on the sidelines rather than finding concrete solutions to the country’s development challenges. After all, one does not absolutely need dual citizenship to invest and contribute to national reconstruction. Or does one? Conclusions and Recommendations Although dual citizenship is becoming a norm rather than the exception in the 21st century world of increased trans-nationalism, each nation has to determine what dual citizenship means for its socio-economic, political, and cultural survival. The current proposed amendments to Liberia’s Alien and Nationality Laws could be the first of many iterations of what dual citizenship might eventually look like for Liberia. Dual citizenship is an inevitability with which Liberia must contend now in order to move forward in post-conflict reconstruction. Before dual citizenship is enacted in Liberia, however, a number of contentious issues much be addressed. A full interrogation of the ‘Negro clause’ must be reconciled; the limitations on holding high political office must be stipulated; practical concerns such as voting for dual-nationals (absentee ballots) would have to be considered; and last, but certainly not least, organized national dialogues amongst Liberians in Liberia and outside of Liberia must ensue that takes into consideration identity, nationhood, loyalty, national security, economic advancement, cultural continuity and legal precedence. Projected economic gains derived from the proposed legislation must not be overemphasized but weighed against these other factors. REFERENCES Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. 1994.
Clark, Matthew. “Liberia’s elites leave American comforts for war-torn home.” The Christian Science Monitor, 5 October 2006. DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. Eden, Dan. Dual Citizenship—Loyal to Whom? Gberie, Lansana. “Liberia’s War and Peace Process: A Historical Overview.” In A Torturous Road to Peace: The Dynamics of Regional, UN, and International
Humanitarian Interventions in Liberia, edited by Festus B. Aboagye and Alhaji MS Bah. Pretoria, South Africa: Institute for Security Studies, 2005. Saul, Jonathan. “Refugees in Israel Face Deportation.” The Liberian Analyst. 2 April 2007. Lift Liberia 1st Year Results, April 2009 (Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs, RL). 90-Day Deliverables Results, November 2009 (Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs, RL).
Liberia’s reemerging fault-lines – Revisiting the dual citizenship debate: Author’s Note/Bio: Samuel G. Toe works with an inter-governmental organization in Monrovia and is a graduate in International Peace Studies from The Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. His Masters’ paper focused on Diasporas in Peacebuilding, and was based partly on a study involving the Liberian Diaspora in Minnesota, USA. Mr. Toe is co-author of the book Impunity under Attack: The Evolution and Imperatives of the Liberian Truth Commission, published by Civic Initiative, a Liberian civil society organization. He can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The stillbirth of the proposed dual-citizenship law in late 2008 did not halt raging debates over the hot-button issue of citizenship in Liberia. In fact, current upsurge of strong public opinions in favor of the law can be credited to those early efforts.1 Though defeated in 2008, it was indeed the first decisive battle in a war to ultimately win dual citizenship in Liberia, reviving once again the historic controversy over the question of who really is a Liberian. Today, those four Senators - Hon. Jewel Howard Taylor (Bong County), Hon. Cletus Wortorson (Grand Kru County), Hon. Sumo Kupee (Lofa County), and Hon Abel Massaley (Grand Cape Mount County) – who gambled both their political weight and shared diasporic wit have not jettisoned the cause. They have again proposed an amendment to certain sections of Liberia’s Aliens and Naturalization Laws dealing with the loss of Liberian citizenship, titled “A Proposed Act to Establish Dual Citizenship for Liberians by Birth”. The best intentions but a flawed starting-point: Notwithstanding its relative success and growing popular support, the proposed dual citizenship bill currently before the Senate is flawed in at least four ways. First, the bill is speechless about the issue multi-citizenship – the possibility of the now trendy phenomenon of holding 2 or more citizenships simultaneously. Second, it is also mute on the meaning of the socially empty word(s) ‘Negro’ and/or ‘Negro descent’. The fact that these terms have lost all essence in the social parlance of its birthplace, the US, has neither dissuaded us from further use, nor encouraged us to purge our constitution of it. Third, the bill imposes no expressed limits on dual-citizenship in regards to holding high public appointed or elected offices, including in high level military and security leadership, which I believe are necessary in a situation of shared-nationalities. In Ghana, for example, dual citizens cannot hold certain key public service positions. Anyone looking to the bill to answer the question of whether or not a dual-citizen can become president of Liberia will go away deeply disappointed.2 Finally, and perhaps more importantly, the bill is also mute on the tension-prone issue of immigrant dual citizenship for the growing population of immigrants now acceding to Liberian citizenship. That such early efforts in the Senate swiftly morphed into a proposed law is indeed a testimony to the power and consequence of key segments of the Liberian disapora backing it, many of whom perceive their loss of Liberian citizenship as victimization by their country’s immigration laws, and are unhappy about continuing absence of a dual citizenship law which would otherwise facilitate retention of their national identity upon accession to a second or third citizenship. Of course, their desire for unfettered access to Liberia, and invariably its politics, cannot be dismissed as a possible motivation, although one must admit in and of itself such motivation isn’t necessarily wrong. I argue in this piece, as a general contention, that the current debate over dual-citizenship is lopsided in its singular focus on diaspora dual-citizenship (to the exclusion of concerns over immigrant dualcitizenship), and that it has done little to advance the discourse beyond a mere pros and cons debate; nor has it clarified important concepts of diaspora (or diaspority)3, or differentiated between the “normative-legal” notion of nationality, and the “normative-political” concept of citizenship.4 The real 10
issues are not which sides have successfully evoked intelligent reasoning or out-debated the other. Instead, it is about whether all sides have had equal voice. Second, I argue that many of the assumptions, innuendoes and fear-mongering attending the diaspora dual citizenship debate are direct results of limited empirical data and unclear factual evidence, and indeed reflects the absence of any thorough research-based assessment of the Liberian scenario – about the state of the Liberian diaspora, or its potentials (or threats) for development and post-conflict peacebuilding. Immigrant dual citizenship, though at the very heart of the controversy, is orphaned by its exclusion. I define immigrant dual-citizens as Africans (mainly West Africans), and persons of “negro” descent (for lack of a better word), living permanently in Liberia, who have naturalized as Liberians, or are children of naturalized immigrants, but who still enjoy the citizenship and privileges of their native countries. Two excellent examples are Ghanaian-Liberians or Sierra Leonean-Liberians, because these two countries already have dual-citizenship laws. Its salience within historic contestations of which ethnic communities are rightly Liberian, and within more contemporary periods in light of the steady rise of African immigrants (mainly West Africans) of “foreign birth” or their children into Liberian citizenship, is irrefutable. 5 The case of the Mandingo ethnic community is a case in point. That Mandingoes are found on both sides of the Liberian-Guinean border, and absent any clear-cut historical verdict regarding their presence in Liberia during its early political formation, has nurtured lingering perceptions that Mandingoes are aliens, notwithstanding more history to the contrary. This situation may yet be another example of the power of perceptions over factual truth. One must remember how land, property rights and citizenship have forever evolved within an unbreakable fidelity, and therefore to issues of identity. Even more, from a socio-economic perspective, citizenship’s inextricable connection to social status, social mobility and wealth is quite telling. A closer look at the conflicts in Nimba and Lofa counties, for example, between Mandingo, Geo, Mano, and Loma ethnic communities will reveal the simmering presence of one or all of the above elements. The dual citizenship debate The arguments in favor of dual citizenship as they stand, rest on four principle planks. First, proponents of the law argue that Liberians who fled the country and acquired other citizenships were pushed by war to do so (the push factor) and therefore cannot be faulted for their decision. Denying these Liberians their native citizenship would amount, therefore, to an unjust double penalty for what inevitably was a hard decision of survival, proponents argue. 6 This argument is in reference to what Terrence Lyons has termed “conflict-generated” diaspora – Liberians who were “forced across borders [from their home country] by wars and conflicts, and possess a specific set of shared traumatic memories, and a strong attachment to a “homeland”, understood in a specific territorial term, and to which they attach high symbolic meaning”.7 I would argue that the birth of this “conflictgenerated” diaspora is rooted in the immediate aftermath of Samuel Doe’s military coup in 1980 which dethroned over a century of Americo-Liberian hegemony, triggering mass exodus of political exiles and members of the Americo-Liberian ilk to far flung corners of Europe and America. The above argument in favor of dual citizenship for ‘conflict-generated’ diaspora represents the most poignant and compelling of them all. Although not theoretically distinct from traditional understandings of Diasporas, Liberia’s “conflict-generated” diaspora can be differentiated by its historic emergence out of particularly protracted conflicts, and may consist quite loosely of a wide 11
range of immigrants including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, etc. In such instance, diasporic identities and essences become strongly linked to these conflicts or the efforts to resolve it. This understanding can explain the sustained involvement of Liberian Diasporas throughout the course of conflict either for war or peace. The earliest most significant involvement of Liberian diaspora in politics, and eventually in conflict, is located in the period following Samuel Doe’s military takeover of 1980. Deposed members of the Americo-Liberian elites (of the True Whig Party) had all fled Liberia, mainly for the U.S. An obvious air of reluctance to seek early revenge prevailed amongst this group. Or better still, they had yet fully recovered from the bloody wreckage of what was once their status quo. Besides, from their only stronghold in the U.S., it was both unwise and impracticable to organize and move against Samuel Doe who, for the first half of his 10-year rule, enjoyed unreserved military and financial support from his Western backers. But as U.S. /Doe relationship soured, diaspora interlopers seized the opportunity to supplant Doe’s influence and forge alliances with disenchanted U.S. authorities in an effort to instigate his removal. The leader of the 1989 rebellion against Samuel Doe, Mr. Charles Taylor, was himself a one-time Chairman of the National Executive Board of Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) between 1979 and 1980. Taylor was also an alumna of U.S. prison system. Many more actors in Liberia’s wars rose out of U.S. diaspora politics. The names of other ULAA leaders and Board Executives ring loud bells: Mr. G. Moses Duopu (President, 1978-1979), Mr. Bai M. Gbala (President, 1979 -1980), Mr. Tarty Teh (Board Member, 1974-1975), Mr. Ignatius Clay (Board Member, 1980-1982), Mr. Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu (Board Member, 1988-1990), and many others. So, when Samuel Doe’s removal through the force of arms became a popular idea, U.S. diaspora was lit up in frantic enthusiasm. Mr. Randolph Cooper, for example, who became Ambassador to the U.S. under Charles Taylor’s presidency, but who resided in the U.S. at the time, appeared on U.S. ABC New Nightline to voice out popular diaspora support for Taylor’s war against Samuel Doe.8 Other reports in the media and in testimonies given to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s public hearings alleged that a U.S.-based Liberian group, the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), also actively raised funds within U.S. diaspora for Taylor’s insurgency in 1989.9 But Charles Taylor himself succumbed to diaspora agitation in the last days of his presidency. Various U.S. groups, including also the infamous ACDL, mobilized U.S. sentiments to intervene in Liberia and orchestrate Taylor’s ouster. At the time, two rebel movements, the Liberian United for Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), led yet again by prominent Liberian U.S.-based exiles, were already beating Taylor’s army into its last stronghold of Monrovia. Charles Taylor had very little options in the face of a joint LURD/MODEL military assault; and amidst loud calls for his ouster by a maverick U.S president. Taylor would certainly resign and self-exile into Nigeria, paving the way for an agreement by both rebel factions in the terms of Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Albeit instances of political involvements and reported support for conflict, leaders and various groups of the diaspora still championed efforts to end violence in the course of the civil war. Accordingly, in 2003, with support from a number U.S. universities and private foundations, several different efforts flowed into reinforcing support for a peace agreement for Liberia. The social scientist Mary Moran has described how from a Bloomington, Indiana meeting in January 2003, to the Liberian Studies Association meeting in Binghamton, NY, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, 12
Liberian diasporans discussed, debated, and drafted policy statements for the way forward in Liberia. They also worked on a draft of the Accra Peace Accord and made constructive recommendations about its successful implementation to the Interim government.10 Many diasporans later returned to Liberia to advise on post-war transition. In their second argument, diaspora dual-citizenship proponents believe that it encourages greater and freer exchange of skills and knowledge across boarders between Liberians in the diaspora and at home. This belief, while convincing and certainly anecdotally factual in some instances, has in Liberia so far been underpinned by the rather flimsy notion of superior culture and better education amongst diasporans. Third, proponents of the law argue that it would foster “cultural continuity and heritage mapping” 11 – an understanding of psychological belonging to ones native ‘homeland’, expressed through the retention and continuation of one’s cultural identity and repertoires, including language, religion, rituals, rites, etc. This “cultural continuity and heritage mapping” therefore guarantees continuing heritage and cultural identity for second, third, and successive generations of Liberian diasporans. In this sense, dual citizenship is seen as the insurance policy that prevents the loss of Liberia’s younger and productive diaspora generations to other nationalities. Fourth and finally, proponents argue that diaspora dual citizenship will foster increased economic gains through increases in GDP, increased trade and investment, and infrastructural development.12 This key argument, though rich in evidence, is yet to be well articulated. On the flip side of things exist equally strong and passionate counterarguments. Those against the law oppose it firstly on constitutional grounds, contending that the constitutional mandate “to preserve, foster and maintain the positive cultures, values and character” of Liberia is antithetical and runs afoul of the very notion of dual citizenship.13 Second, opponents believe that dual-citizenship will compromise and ultimately destroy Liberian culture and heritage because of what they see as the inherent contradictions and conflicts that would exist between the cultures and laws of Liberia and those of other nations to whom Liberians are dual citizens.14 This extreme strand of argument fails however to say exactly why Liberian laws and culture will suffer, and not the other way round. Third, opponents argue that diaspora dual citizenship will most certainly privilege diaspora Liberians over others because of the ubiquitous and putative notion of a superior culture about living abroad, notwithstanding the flimsy assumptions underpinning such notions. Fourth, there is also the contention that dual citizenship will create a situation of divided allegiance and double loyalty between Liberia and other states, posing concerns (and possibly threats) to national sovereignty and security. Until now, opponents have failed to anchor this assertion in real evidence, except to assert their genuine concern over the challenge of serving two masters. It’s unclear exactly what psychological inhibitors inherently present a Liberian from being a Liberian, while at the same time being a Ghanaian, Christian, Kru, monogamous, a democrat, a pianist, etc, etc. Many studies have shown, as with dual citizenship, that multiple national, religious, ideological, ethnic, linguistic and psychological identities can simultaneously cohabit in a person without tensions. As a matter of fact, Diaspora and trans-nationalism studies have long recognized this inherent dynamic. The work of Vertovec and Cohen presents diaspora as a theoretical construction related to the processes of migration and trans-nationalism, and expressed as (a) a social form, (b) consciousness, and (c) cultural production. As a ‘social form’, diasporas connect with home country, host country, and other dispersed groups of the same origin elsewhere. As a ‘consciousness’, they assume the meaning of both positive and negative experiences, such as celebrating their heritage, experiences of 13
discrimination and alienation, etc. These shared experiences form the basis for deep self-awareness, being constantly shaped by “multi-locality of the “here” and the “there”, but sharing the same “route” and “roots.” Finally, diaspora as a ‘mode of cultural production’ is an understanding wherein diaspora becomes a site of cultural re-production generated and sustained by border-crossing, social, cultural, economic and political phenomena.15 Fifth and finally, opponents argue that the absence of a dual citizenship law in Liberia is the last prophylaxis between its majority poor population and the aggressive and unbridled encroachment of rapacious foreign businessmen anxious to purchase and control the most productive lands of the country. This augment is tied to the inextricable marriage between land ownership and citizenship. In the face of often corrupt and insensitive governments, the argument is, the absence of a DC law is all that prevents Liberia’s final takeover. This too is an interesting argument and resonates on both the up-end side (diaspora) and down-end side (immigration) of the DC debate. Discussing the merits and demerits of each side in the diaspora dual citizenship debate is indeed a worthy exercise, but one made more challenging by a context of limited empirical data, scant factual evidence, and the dominant presence of heighten fears and visceral emotions around the issues. Admittedly though, even in its current state, the debate has helped elucidate the varying hues that exist on the issue, and has certainly called attention to the injustice of the current immigration and naturalization laws. Yet, it has done so only within a very limited context, one which may sadly disguise the true nature of the dilemma we face. The result so far is the successful eclipsing of concerns over a more latent and conflict-potential segment of dual-citizenship that relates to the steady rise of African immigrants, mainly West Africans, into Liberian citizenship, many of whom, it is believed, still cling to privileges and access to their native countries, notwithstanding laws to the contrary. While “natural-born” diaspora Liberians are stripped of Liberian citizenship, denied Liberian passport, required to sit and qualify for Liberian visa before entering Liberia from abroad, and denied voting and property rights, their naturalized counterparts enjoy the freedom to remain engaged with, self-identify as, and actively participate in the politics of their native countries. A classic example is the recent balloting of some nine thousand native Guineans living in Liberia in the segment of the Guinean elections organized in Liberia.16 Some members of this group are believed to also be Liberians by birth or naturalization. Whether the result of natural dynamics of immigrant communities, or simply a consequence of government’s aloofness on immigration laws is not clearly apparent. What is apparent, however, is the law’s aggressive penalizing of “natural-born” Liberians who accede to other nationalities. As more and more disenfranchised and disenchanted diasporans become exposed to the unjust, unequal, and contradictory reality of the Liberian immigration laws, I fear that they will more certainly grow in greater dissatisfaction and disquiet. Under such atmosphere, simmering feelings of xenophobia may easily take root back in Liberia and possibly blowout into overt hostilities against immigrants in ways akin to those we’ve witnessed in other parts of Africa and elsewhere, although for various other reasons.
My second argument about the empirical hollowness of the debate is linked strongly to the sad practice of sentiment-driven discourses in Liberia. Proponents of diaspora dual citizenship have argued for its economic gains, but elected to point to no hard evidence, albeit anecdotal, of its correlation to investment and development. And not that such evidence isn’t available. Diaspora remittances, for example, is today constituting the biggest and most significant economic contribution to home countries, in many cases far exceeding oversees development aid (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI)17. In Liberia, an IFAD report in 2006 estimated that Liberians remitted some $163 million to relatives, an amount almost equivalent to Liberia’s national budget, and about a quarter of its GDP at the time.18 Economists and development scholars point to this kind of massive flow of finances as the new development frontier for Africa, unlike, for example, IMF, World Bank, and other bilateral or multilateral aid packages. A study in 2009 suggests that Liberians in the U.S. have an estimated buying power of over a billion dollars, twice Liberia’s GDP in 2005. In Minnesota, for example, their buying power is an estimated US$157 million, as large as the country’s national budget in 2007/2008 of US$199 million.19 With such capacity, the diaspora can support both individual families and grassroots communities, as well as contribute to current development thrust. It’s important to note, however, that with the lack of formalized channels of diaspora remittances which are mainly direct person-to-person private transfer and directly to households, remittances therefore cannot replace or substitute traditional development aid, as very few governments have free access to them.20 While remittances outside of a conflict scenario is generally treated as an economic or development issue, I argue that in Liberia, its peacebuilding impact is immense and has critically supported basic conditions for normalcy and material progress in the lives of ordinary people and communities post-conflict. Such support has in the past been made possible in areas of food supplies, funding community school programs, etc. In this regards, it can become a critically important peacebuilding tool. Another study into the remittance sending habits of Liberians in Providence, Rhode Island in 2005 suggested an interesting correlation between psychological feelings of identity and belonging, and remittances. The study involved 17 adult Liberian (11 males and 6 females) and revealed the presence of feeling of strong ties to Liberia and families therein, which drove them to continuously remit.21 However, with protracted absence of dual citizenship, such feeling of psychological ties are more likely to dissipate, especially in second, third, and successive generations of diasporans, thereby adversely impacting the important trend of diaspora remittances. Conclusion Concerns over the ‘Negro’ question, over limitations on dual-citizenship holding certain public offices, and over a possible regime of privilege, legitimate as there are, are as important as those about the rights and limitations of immigrant dual citizenship. Liberia’s attempt to address these concerns within a dual citizenship law must be based upon a thorough scrutiny of the arguments and assumptions underlying the diaspora dual citizenship debate, as well as a thorough and in-depth research-based assessment of Liberia’s immigrant dual citizenship dilemma. As is the case in neighboring Cote D’Ivore which still grapples with the disruptive consequences of its concept of “Ivoirité”, citizenship for Liberia is also a potentially explosive issue and may just be the new fault line once again threatening to push us the brink of conflict. 15
As many conflicts are, Liberia’s is a sad history of failed relationships between returning Africans (African-Americans) and native inhabitants of the Green Coast. In reviewing Claude Clegg’s work The Price of Liberia: African-Americans and the Making of Liberia, the author Stephen Lubkemann accurately depicts the historical and relational aspects of what can be considered early diasporas interaction in Liberia when he writes: “Woven back and forth, and back again across the Middle Passage, Liberian diaspority has arguably become above all a matter of social dispossession breeding social dispossession…inviting us to re-center our gaze and our theories on structural violence and the ways in which it problematizes and qualifies attachment and identities.”922 Lubkemann’s description is only a modest attempt to capture the deep, hostile and divisive social relations that lay at the foundation of Liberia’s conflicts for over a century – of class division, identity politics, and subjugation of one group by another. But its sobering reflection of our sad predicament is irresistible. In order to transform conflict and build peace, a comprehensive all-inclusive approach that includes all actors – including the diaspora – must be pursued. Yet, this urgency needs not lead us into inadequacy and error. The Liberian Senate, and indeed the government of Liberia, needs to commission a thorough evidence-based assessment of the issues in order to avoid a rash patchworkof-a-law that does little to curb growing dissatisfactions and fears over this potentially divisive issue. DISCLAIMER: The views expressed here are solely my own and do not reflect those of any institutions, offices, or groups I affiliate with now or previously.
The first such attempts at a law was in late 2008 when four Senior Senators – Hon. Jewel Howard Taylor (Bong County), Hon. Cletus Wortorson (Grand Kru County), Hon. Sumo Kupee (Lofa County), and Hon Abel Massaley (Grand Cape Mount County) – tested a dual-citizenship bill on the Senate floor but were snubbed by the body on grounds that their bill lacked sufficient cause. 2
For an assessment of these and other blemishes of the proposed bill, see Pailey, Robtel. 2010. “The Love of Liberty Divided Us Here? Implications of Dual Citizenship for Liberia.”A Paper delivered at 42nd Liberian Studies Association Conference (March 24-27, 2010) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. 3
Shine and Barth attempt to define diaspora as “a people with a common origin who reside, more or less on a permanent basis, outside the borders of their ethnic or religious homeland ,” in Shine, Yossi & Aharon Barth. 2003. “Diaspora and international Relations Theories.” International Organization Vol 57 No. 3, p. 452. For an in-depth review of various conceptualizations of diaspora, see Cohen, R. 1997. Global Diaspora: an Introduction. London: University College London Press; Butler, Kim. 2001. “Define Diaspora, Redefining a Discourse.” Diaspora 10(2); Safran, William. 1991. “Diaspora in Modern Societies: Myths of Home Country and Return.” Diaspora 1: 83-84; Sheffer, Gabriel. 2003. Diaspora Politics: at home abroad. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; and Patterson, Tiffany and Robin Kelley. 2000. “Unfinished Migration: Reflections on the African Diaspora and the Making of the Modern World.” African Studies Review. Special Issue on the Diaspora. 43 (1): 13.
An excellent discussion of the concepts of nationality, citizenship, and the trends of dual-citizenship can be found in Faist, Thomas et al. Fall 2004. “Dual Citizenship as a Path-Dependent Process.” International Migration Review Vol. 38 No. 3: 913 – 944. 5
Persons of “foreign birth” constitute a meager 2% of Liberia’s population (about 73,861), not including another 18,702 who did not specify place of birth in last national Census. But the apparent increase in immigrant Liberians may be due more to increases in the number of “natural born” children to “foreign-born” parents, although LISGIS’ slightly murky definition of immigrants includes Liberians born outside of Liberia. See the recent Republic of Liberia “2008 Population and Housing Census – Final Reports”. May 2009. Liberia Institute for statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS). Monrovia, Liberia. A 1-4. 6
In Pailey 2010, Robtel offers an excellent contextual assessment of existing differences and concerns (pros and cons) surrounding the proposed Diaspora dual citizenship law based upon 50 questionnaire responses of 31 adult males and 19 adult females regarding (a) their support for (or objection to) the proposed Dual Citizenship Act, and (b) the reason(s) for their position. Notwithstanding its outstanding elucidation, the study focuses narrowly on Diaspora dual-citizenship to the exclusion of concerns over immigrant dual-citizenship, and is limited to a very small population of respondents. 7
Lyons, Terrence. April 2004. “Conflict Resolution in an Asymmetric Multilateral World. Engaging Diaspora to Promote Conflict Resolution: Transforming Hawks into Doves”. George Town University, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. http://www.tamilnation.org.conflictresolution.lyons.htm (accessed March 2009). 8
See The Perspective. “Liberian Ambassador in the US Recalled.” The Perspective Website. (March 6, 2002). http://www.theperspective.org/bull.html (accessed 13 March 2009). 9
See the TRC website https://www.trcofliberia.org/ (accessed March 2009).
See Moran, Mary H. 2005. “Time and Place in the Anthropology of Events: A Diaspora Perspective of the Liberian Transition.” Anthropological Quarterly 78 No. 2: 257- 264.
This familiar argument, present in numerous previous debates, also appears in Robtel’s supra Review. 13
Tuon, P. Nimely-Sie. “Dual Citizenship Law will Weaken Liberia’s Nationality and Undermined her Heritage” in the Commentary. The Informer Newspaper. Vol. 5 No. 859. August 3, 2010. 14
For an in-depth understanding, see Vertovec, S. and R. Cohen. Eds. Migration, Diaspora, and Transnationalism. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd: xiii-xxviii. 16
Statistics gleaned from a UNHCR source. Further information may be found on the official Guinean Election Commission website: http://www.presidentielle2010.ceniguinee.org/
For more information on the global trend, see Aderanti, Adepoju. 2008. “Migration in Sub-Sahara Africa.” Current African Issues 37. The Nordic African Institute: Uppsala University. 18
As cited in Corrie, Bruce P. 2008. “Ethnic Capital: Liberians in the United States and Minnesota”. St Paul, Minnesota: College of Business, Concordia University. 19
Aderanti 2008, p. 38.
See Briant, Sophie. 2005. “The Remittance Sending Behavior of Liberians in Providence.” MA Thesis. Brown University. USA.Briant 2005. 22
Lubkemann, Stephen C. 2004. “Diasporas and their Discontents: Return without Homecoming in the Forging of Liberian and the African-American Identity.” Diaspora Vol. 13 No. 1: p. 123-128.
Microscoping the Institution of a Dual Citizenship Regime in Liberia: George Wah Williams is current Executive Director of Liberia Democracy Watch, who formerly served the International Republican Institute (IRI) Liberia Program as Its Program Officer from 2004-2006. Mr. Williams has led several elections observation mission to in Liberia (2005), Ghana (2004 & 2008), and Sudan (2010) and is an international elections observer with The Electoral Institute of Southern African (EISA) and The Carter Center (TCC). Before joining IRI, Mr. Williams served the Special Elections Commission (SECOM) as a Voter Education Officer assigned to Grand Kru County and Chairman of the University of Liberia Student Union Elections Commission (ULSU-ECOM) in 1992. The Dual Citizenship bill introduced by the Liberian Senate, at the eve of preparations for Liberia’s 2011 Presidential and General elections, attracted tremendous suspicion from the public about the timing and intent by its proponents. At a time when the issues affecting the country such as the those occasioned by the ongoing reconstruction and recovery program; rising levels of corruption, growing price hikes, low provision of basic social services, weaning educational system and unreliable health sector, poor resource management programs including non-responsive agriculture programs, it is astonishing that such a bill would surface enlivening another controversial debate just at the heels of the passage of the controversial Legislative Joint Resolution in place of an Electoral Threshold. So the questioned looms, Why a Dual Citizenship Bill? What Does the Liberian Constitution Say? Why Now? What are the considerations or ramifications of the bill on national development? Below the author will attempt to provide responses to the questions with the trust that the perspectives expressed in response to the questions will engender greater debate and help to inform the nonpassage of the bill. Why A Dual Citizenship Regime and What Does the Constitution Say? As a political commentator, concerns about issues with propensity to affect (positively or otherwise) the Constitution will normally attract attention. Consequently, Constitutionists believing in the preservation and sanctity of constitutions will abhor any situation where flagrant attempts are made to alter and reduce the integrity of national laws without substantive, empirical justification to support the arguments for change. A copy of the bill ( see appendix) whether a final version or initial submission on the floor of the Senate states as its basis for the promulgation of this bill:
“ Certain provisions of the Constitution and the Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia stand in contrast to the Liberian Constitution” 19
What is particularly concerning about this designed basis by the Senate is that they fail in a substantive way to provide clearly which components or provisions of the constitution and the law referred to therein run contrast to the constitution. As the author is not a proponent of the bill, it makes the sub-heading a rather uphill task in trying to propagate why a Dual Citizenship regime/ However, as a skeptic of the bill, I will assume and given the timing and circumstance of the emergence of the bill on the floor of the Senate just after the passage of a very controversial Resolution in the stead of “Electoral Threshold Bill, punctuates the fears, concerns, suspicions about the intent and purpose of the bill. The Constitution of Liberia is very clear and unambiguous about who can and cannot be a citizen of Liberia. The 1986 Constitution defines in Article 28 all pertinent protection to which every Liberian is so entitled and protected. Proponents expound that the bill will enable Liberians who, especially as a consequence of the protracted civil war in the 90s, victims of the 1980 coup and the accompanying incidences, as a result of the listed situations fled the country in search of havens. Large segments of the population had to exit the country seeking security: economic, social and political in other lands. Proponents maintain that for those fleeing Liberians to access opportunities in their new lands, they were forced to take on new nationalities. Proponents further argue that it is unfair to such people to have to be denied Liberian citizenship when by maintaining both nationalities, Liberia stand to benefit. It is heard that such Liberians feel unprotected and under the current circumstance are hesitant to invest without “protection.” They proffer that with a dual citizenship regime, the economy of the Liberia will experience better health from the involvement of re-certificated Liberians. The author argues simply that the justification is very weak and cannot be utilized as a substantive reliance for granting or enacting dual citizenship regime in Liberia. The author turns to expats, George Haddad, Ezak Eid and most recently Robert L. Johnson just to name a few, the Orontos, BREs, Mittal Steels, China Unions, LACs, and the list goes on. All of these companies are foreign owned and operators enjoying tremendous access in the Liberia economy. Perhaps we scale down the examples and consider the many Nigerians, Sierra Leoneans, Ghanaians, Ivorians who have made Liberia a home away from home and with sizable investments, despite the absence of a regime that grants them the right to vote in Liberia and Nigeria or any other applicable point of origin. The author further argues in muting the economic argument from proponents, which no law(s) exist within the confines of the state of Liberia that prohibits or inhibits any person of Negro decent from owning property neither is there any law which undermines a “former Liberian” from gaining access to property, economic opportunities, or regaining citizenship. The author contends that without any evidence of inhibitions, prohibitions or an imperial verifiable indicator of how by granting or instituting a dual citizenship regime economic betterment will be attained. Other proponents including those who initiated the bill maintain that as a consequence of the various personal and or national situations mitigate against the need to retain Liberian citizenship and that based on those conditions, those affected should be conferred their original citizenship status. The authors insist that the intellect of the framers of the 1986 Constitutions, recognizing the possibilities of Liberians shedding their Nationality for others for varying reasons might sometime in the future 20
have a rethink of their position and would prefer to be recognized once more as Liberians with all rights and privilege appertaining thereto, stated in Article 28 that no person shall be denied citizenship once they “denounce a previous nationality seeking a reinstatement to Liberian nationality.” Essentially article 28 establishes that in consideration of the myriad of encumbrances that could result from the bequeathal of dual or multiple citizenship to any once person, required that to regain ones Liberian citizen status, (s)he was required by law to renounce any other nationality. The challenge for proponents of the bill is in articulating a reasonable or convincing rationale in retaining more than one nationality (the intent of the bill). The Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia recognizes as a matter of right, the right of the original Liberian nationality and does state procedures at regaining his/ her status as a Liberian, but only after denouncing other nationality. Why Now? It is not very clear why, after more than five (5) years in office, would the Senate bring on to the floor of plenary the issue of Dual Citizenship? What considerations could have instigated this imperative? The urgency, given the advent of elections, of reversing recent denials of presidential appointees by the Liberian Senate ( and rightly so in favor of current citizens) could perhaps be behind the sudden need to enact and recognize dual citizens in Liberia. Rumors are adrift with attempts to woo into participation, Liberians currently based outside the country, especially in the United States, for the coming elections. The implications further suggests that such people once granted will then have the access to canvass in favor of the proponents’ parties (a major source of political and financial support). The timing is even more a concern as the impending elections are projected to be filled with intrigues especially with the involvement of “Liberians” who over the years, have lived outside the country for protected period and who might not be conversant with contemporary realities and conditions and with recent re-assimilation experiences between returning diasporans and entrenched locals, various shades of socio-political tensions could brew. The author is reminded of a perception documented by a former SES official, who after years of diaspora experience decided in favor of contributing to Liberia’s recovery process. After a few months assigned outside the Capitol, he got very frustrated with the nonchalance in pace of the regular work environment and about the conditions of work unsupported by institutional limitations, parted ways with the program for a return to the US. I would assume the character in the analogy might be a citizen of the US, after spending atleast 15 years in that country. A local on the other hand would have relished, the not just the opportunity for professional growth provide by the SES program but the number of “mouths” the pay would feed (a side issue here). What are the fears? The author harbors tremendous fears about the institution of a dual citizen regime in Liberia, especially at time when much consideration about the benefits (still ambiguous) have not been articulated for the appreciation of not only policymakers but even for other citizens who will be guided by the new law. Amongst several fears harbored range from: Security, Social and Electoral 21
Infiltration; Political Allegiance, and National Character. The author will attempt to address each of these scenarios with a view to providing a clearer appreciation of the dangers involved, especially for Liberia and its position in the region. While many who think about the bill would without thinking point the strength of the mental energies to the USA as those to be direct beneficiaries of the law when passed. The author is even more conscious about the regional implications of the law. The greatest danger however rest in large, not in the regional shade of the pending arguments but in the issue of political allegiance by those from the more developed economies, especially the USA. The author commences his argument with an examination of the Security implications of the law when passed. The Deputy Commissioner of Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), an experienced Law Enforcement Officer who once served as Assistant Director for CID Affairs before moving to the US and now with the Bureau of Immigration stated at a recent hearing by the Senate’s Judicial Committee that “the BIN was concerned over the issue of extradition, deportation and loyalty of a dual citizenship holder caught committing a transatlantic offense”. As an experienced law enforcement officer and who will later face contradiction from this Director, his foresight in security and related implications of such a bill is something to be considered. He is quite knowledgeable about security situations especially at the level of inter-pol. Given that knowledge, not ordinarily found for cheap, his arguments were rubbished by his Commissioner a day or so later, who too was a law enforcement personnel in the same department of the Liberian National Police back in the days. However it is noted the Bureau’s official reaction was based more on political considerations than security concerns and in the case of the Deputy Director of Police Al Karley and BIN’s Operational Deputy Budy along professional lines informed by experience. The argument about jurisdiction over citizens, for instance who are US citizens will present higher levels of legal challenges for the administration of justice in Liberia then would Guinea-Liberians, Sierra Leonean-Liberians, Cote D’Ivoire and other areas in the sub-region. The author dare say even a dual citizen (taking for granted that citizenship in China is open to negros) from China. The prosecution of two Chinese nationals in Liberian courts speaks volumes to this issue. If an American cannot be tried in Liberian courts or any another court worldwide for crimes committed, how is jurisdiction determined under a dual citizenship regime? What safeguards the judicial interest of Liberia under a regime as suggested by the proposed act? For many, dual citizens never ever declare the full range of nationalities they might have at any one time. Possessing US, German, Dutch, Guinean, Sierra Leonean nationality for convenience might be a probable prospect where using each depending on given circumstances and convenience. The next argument against a dual citizenship regime focuses on social and political infiltration. Under the caption might be issues of employment, elections eligibility, economic and other possibilities. The Liberianization policy projects a exclusive regime for Liberians in various economic spheres. This law when passed will mute the policy as differentiating Liberians (dual or singular) from non-nationals will bestow on the process of administering a regime of this nature, greater complications. There is also 22
the issue of employment. How would our employment laws be designed to protect Liberians who are covered by the regime as against those non-nationals? How would the system distinguish between Guineans, Sierra Leoneans, and others who purport to be Liberians covered by the regime as against those that are not? This same debate applies to situation for economic and business leverages set aside for Liberians be it “Single, dual or multiple” citizenship. The complexity will widen even more when regional actors decipher ways by which the process can be abused, validating the complexity of administering the regime and amplifying the limited institutional and legal capacity to accommodate such national reform. . On top of the list of considerations, the author’s passion weighs heavily along political lines. The body politics of states in the region have been rather quiet until the recent social changes mainly occasioned by the Liberian crisis and the implications of cross border influences on various political processes in neighboring countries. While many architects of the bill again maintain a focus of the bill on the need to provide political22 space for diasporan Liberians (US based especially) especially as elections approaches. The investment argument for the passage of this bill is in the estimation of the author is feebly lean to lift as a driving motive behind the bill. After studying the political situation in the country and placing some considerations on the implications of several probabilities for the coming elections, it is crucial that much thought is given the bill and the likely impact it could present on the forthcoming elections and other socio-political processes. A former Commissioner of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madam Mary Brownell was quoted by a local daily of revealing that reports reaching her had spoken of mass preparations in neighboring countries to import non-nationals into the country to influence the results of the elections in favor of unnamed candidates. The pronouncement made at the launch of the NEC’s civic and voter education process was noteworthy as this underlined the primary fear that proponents perhaps failed to consider, and rightly so, as they are quite clear on their motive. Taking the argument further, what processes or procedures are adequate to protect the electoral system from infiltration? Densely populated areas like central Monrovia, West Point, New Kru Town, Old Road, Red Light, Gardnersville, Paynesville, Kakata, Buchanan and the list goes on are haven for so many people, its becomes more than a challenge to separate who is and who is not. If it the name the NEC or the BIN will go by, I am sorry to say it would be a waste of public resources and time to deploy immigration officials at voter registration centers. How dare Liberian believe that their District # 1 Representative and the new EPA Boss are non-Liberians? Even the author who given his wide travel experience was fooled into believing that Onyi was Nigerian. But looking back at the name of Alomiza Ennos, a childhood friend of the author, perceptions changed automatically. The challenge of deciphering between who is and isn’t Liberian will be enormous not only for the BIN but more for the staff of the NEC who will be deployed across the country especially near border towns. The author believes the trials will come when NEC Staff will have to deal with the situation during registration in counties such as Lofa, Nimba, Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Maryland Bong counties are by now preparing to address the situation but it will remain a sticky situation of securing 23
the peace and selecting between who is and is not a Liberian in those areas. The author hopes to spend some time between the areas located between Jacob’s Town and Double bridge; the home of many Liberian-Guineans, Guinean-Liberians, Guineans or whatever the case might be. Another likely prospect would be the presence of Nigerians and Ghanaians in the electoral process. Though this number might not be so large as to significantly influence large an impact on the overall process in favor of any one person, the sierra Leonean and Guinean population pose a bleak prospect for elections administrators. It must however be made clear, that minority representations residing in Liberia, especially in Monrovia could weigh into the process in favor of candidates with whom they might have nationalistic proclivity. The author surrenders that he has gained tremendous acceptance from Nigerians across Liberia simply because he schooled in Kaduna State Nigeria. These little things connections could rally non-nationals into the electoral process without any meaningful form of identification required other than to speak as much as possible like a Liberian( This assertion is true for most of parts of Monrovia. Another layer of this argument would be the question-what ceiling of national leadership can dual citizens be allow to stop. Many believe that the issue of allegiance and loyalty come about when persons of dual or multiple nationalities find themselves placed in high governmental positions. An article written by Dan Eden22 in March of 2010 posted online reemphasizes that “the word "allegiance" means that we promise loyalty. It also carries with it the expectation that this loyalty will be exclusive and unhindered. In the case of a declared war or real threat or conflict, for example, our allegiance to America should preclude any other interest, be it another country or political ideology. When they (in reference to his parents) took their oath to become American citizens, my parents had to pledge their "allegiance" exclusively to America and renounce their allegiance to "any and all foreign governments including Great Britain where they emanated from.” Without authenticating the veracity of the quotation above, it provides the clarity that must out of necessity work along dual citizenship; national loyalty and allegiance. Some argue that by granting dual citizenship, beneficiaries should be limited from holding offices in national government; such as elective posts and appointed positions. But again, outside of this consideration are greater social, political and economic considerations to be made as outlined earlier. The greater question therefore is, is our system, judicial especially capacitated enough to accommodate a regime of dual citizenship wherein the granting of such status open doors to multiple citizenships (given the laxity of the current system). This move would render ineffectual, several laws especially those pertaining to Aliens and Naturalization in Liberia. Are we with the resources (human and material ) to not only effect a hasty change but to administer a dual citizenship regime in Liberia, despite the presence of growing practical challenges that are yet unmet or are we looking more closely at the immediacy of the benefits to be derived come October 11, 2011? Conclusion: Liberia’s current Immigration and Naturalization laws provide and protect the interest of all current and former Liberians wishing to change or regain their status and highlights the process by which it can be regained. Our laws seek to protect the Liberian integrity and heritage through a set of well thought out constitutional procedures. One is therefore left to wonder over why, when even under 24
current laws regional persons purport to be Liberians and are granted passports with very little ease would our lawmakers seek to effect a regime as described without much instutitonal and resource empowerment? How many Liberian government officials can conveniently distinguish between any one purporting to be a Liberian from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ghana specifically given the historical presence and density of Liberians in those countries and vice versa? Finally, the 1986 Constitution expliciutly spells out the processes and procedures that are applicable to the attainment, regaining or loss of citizenship under Liberian Laws. The Constitution further grants as one of its powers, the authority of the Legislature to establish laws on citizenship but this right is not absolute to that body but by extension, must meet the acquiescence of the broader Liberian populace through a national referendum. It is this forum that will make the ultimate determination and so we look forward to the referendum.
Appendix: Draft of the Dual Citizenship Bill