SAJJ House Restaurant Owners Vis a Vis The Ongoing Citizenship Debates

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THE RECENT HAPPENINGS AT SAJJ HOUSE Restaurant, which is owned and operated by Lebanese, have again sparked the debates of giving Liberian citizenship out to people of ‘non-Negro descent.’

AT THE MOMENT, THE LIBERIAN CONSTITUTION, which is this nation’s organic law, doesn’t support giving citizenship to Caucasians or people of non-Negro descent.

THE CONSTITUTION, IN CHAPTER Four (4) under Article 27, restricts those who are eligible to become citizens of Liberia:

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.

ARTICLE 28: 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.

SOME OF THOSE MAINLY of Caucasian background but who were born in Liberia and have lived in this country most or all of their lives have termed this restriction in the Liberian Constitution as “discriminatory and racist.”

OTHERS, MAINLY THOSE of dark skin, have counter-argued; however, that that particular Article 27 is appropriate as most Liberians are dirt poor and that conferring their “inalienable rights” on people of non-Negro descent, who are presently financially well-off, will make them (Liberians) slaves in their own ‘Mother Land.’

PEOPLE FROM LEBANON OR OF Lebanese origins and people from India or of Indian origins have lived in this country for many decades. They are known to be some of the best traders and to have a firm grip on the nation’s economy so much so that the day they all decide to fart, the stench would be too unbearable to inhale.

WELL, NOT ALL OF THESE ARABIC-speaking Caucasians are from Lebanon, some are from Syria and Egypt. Most Liberians will just bundle them all in one kinja as Lebanese because our brothers from Lebanon have been too long living among us in peace. Many of their children with Liberian women can be found all around the country.

WHEN PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH Weah ignited the debate in his first State of the Nation Address on Monday, January 29, every finger was pointed at those Indians and Lebanese in that category.

THE PRESIDENT, IN THAT address to the 54th Legislature, said he considered the issue of citizenship as his “most urgent and imperative agenda.”

“SINCE THE FOUNDING OF THIS country in 1847, more than 170 years ago, there have been certain restrictions on citizenship and property ownership that – in my view – have become serious impediments to the development and progress of this country.  These restrictions include the limitation of citizenship only to black people, the limitation of property ownership exclusively to citizens, and the non-allowance of dual citizenship.    

Limitation of Citizenship only to Black People

“THE FRAMERS OF THE 1847 CONSTITUTION may have had every reason and justification to include these restrictions in that historic document.  In their own words, and I quote: ‘The great object of forming these Colonies, being to provide a home for the dispersed and oppressed children of Africa, and to regenerate and enlighten this benighted continent, none but persons of color shall be admitted to citizenship in this Republic.’

“THEY, AS FREED SLAVES, WERE fleeing from the oppressive yoke of slavery imposed upon them by white slave owners.  They, therefore, wanted Liberia to be ‘…a refuge and a haven for freedmen of color,’ and so they restricted citizenship only to black people.

“THIS MAY HAVE BEEN APPROPRIATE for the 19th century, and for the threats and conditions that existed at that time.

“However, Here In The 21st century, I am of the view that these threats no longer exist, and that these conditions have changed. In these circumstances, it is my view that keeping such a clause in our constitution is unnecessary, racist, and inappropriate for the place that Liberia occupies today in the comity of nations.

“IT ALSO CONTRADICTS THE very definition of Liberia, which is derived from the Latin word ‘liber,’ meaning ‘Liberty.’ I believe that we should have nothing to fear from people of any other race becoming a citizen of Liberia, once they conform to the requirements of our Immigration and Naturalization Laws, as may be appropriately amended to address this new situation.

“IN FACT, WE HAVE EVERYTHING to gain. If we look in our region amongst the other member states of ECOWAS, especially our neighbors in La Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, it will soon be observed that permitting people of other races to become citizens has not marginalized their indigenes.”

THE PRESIDENT’S OPEN DECLARATION of support, to allow people of non-Negro descent to become citizens of Liberia, that day sparked a debate that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. And with the recent happenings at SAJJ House Restaurant, social media users have made the debates to gain steam again, especially for those who are against people of non-Negro descent becoming citizens of their country.

SHOULD WE ALLOW THEM or should we not? The debates are on.

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