U.S. Citizenship Debate: ANC, CDC Tango Over Weah, Cummings Nationalities
Monrovia – Alex Cummings drew some interesting comments from callers into the Prime Morning Drive segment at 105.5 FM on May 5 but it is the most talked-about controversy over his U.S. citizenship that is still being debated.
Similarly, a Facebook posting Thursday also displayed a page of an American passport supposedly belonging to Ambassador George Manneh Weah, the political leader of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change.
That both the CDC and the Alternative National Congress which tipped Cummings as its political leader last weekend are trading blows months away from the 2017 Presidential elections illustrates not just the strains still lingering between the two political establishments but a resurrection of a debate which dogged a few candidates during the 2005 Presidential elections.
The ANC is a breakaway group of the CDC, following fallout between its former Chairman Horatio Gould and other party hierarchies. The citizenship issue is likely to resurrect the dual citizenship debate which remains a vital part of the Liberia political discourse.
Proving who is or is not a U.S. citizens has been difficult to prove. When FrontPageAfrica sought clarity: “As a matter of law and policy, we do not comment on citizenship or residency status of individuals.” – Sally Hodgson, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy, Monrovia
When FrontPageAfrica first brought the issue up with the U.S. Embassy in Liberia during the 2014 senatorial elections, a spokesperson, former Public Affairs Officer, Sally Hodgson said it was against U.S. policy to comment on the citizenship issue.
“As a matter of law and policy, we do not comment on citizenship or residency status of individuals,” Hodgson said when asked about the citizenship of Mr. Weah.
For years, Liberians in the Diaspora have been making a push for a dual citizenship bill to no avail.
Under current law, dual citizenship is prohibited, but a bill has been introduced in the Liberian Senate to make it possible.
On the eve of the 2005 Presidential elections, the USA Today reported that an unnamed candidate in the race for the presidency as a U.S. citizen stirring up a pot of controversy. During the 2014 Senatorial elections, the issue again popped up amid claims that both Weah and his main rival, Robert Sirleaf carried U.S. passports.
The June 6 2005 report in the USA Today reported that a Liberian living in the Northern Virginia area was a citizen of the U.S. contesting the presidency in Liberia.
At the time, it was reported that three candidates: Sirleaf, Morlu and Brumskine at the time had residency listed under their names in the Northern Virginia area mentioned in the original USA Today story.
Sirleaf had a residence at 6056 Estates Drive in Alexandria, Virginia while Brumskine had a home listed in his name at 6024 Katelyn Court, Alexandria, Virginia 22310. John Morlu said at the time that he sold his home in Falls Church, Virginia, but has lived at 5597 Seminary Road, Falls Church Virginia, 22041. John Morlu purchased a home in Atlanta, Georgia, where his family currently resides.
The Sirleaf campaign at the time dismissed the insinuations: “It is unfortunate that people want to play politics with the future of Liberia. Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is not and has never been a citizen of the United States of America.”
The Morlu campaign at the time provided a copy of Morlu’s United States green card which he had received in 2002 through his son who serves in the U.S. Army. The Brumskine campaign at the time acknowledged that their candidate did have a Green Card but turned it over to the United States Embassy upon his return to Liberia in 2002. Morlu himself underwent rigorous probe by the NEC before he was eventually cleared to stand as a candidate in the race.
Brumskine’s campaign at the time explained that Mr. Brumskine travels with a United States visa in his passport. Interestingly, the party went on to explain that Brumskine was accused in 2003 by the government of Mr. Charles Taylor of being an American citizen.
But that the United States Embassy in Monrovia issued a press statement that he is not a citizen of the United States, according to the Brumskine campaign.
During the 2014 senatorial elections, the National Elections Commission through its spokesman Joey Kennedy told FrontPageAfrica that the commission did not receive any formal complaint regarding foreigners contesting the midterm elections.
Liberians in the United States send millions annually to families and friends in Liberia in terms of remittance. For the upcoming Presidential elections, the issue is once again on the radar with Cummings so far receiving much of the scrutiny.
Amid the claims and counter claims, the Cummings camp through party chairman Orishall Gould denounced repeated media reports that the man expected to lead the ANC to the 2017 general and Presidential election is a full fledge Liberian.
Gould says Cummings was born of Grebo parents in the old government hospital on Front Street and his parents are from Maryland County and later on his aunt moved to Tapitta Nimba County where they lived, His aunt, Beatrice Cummings, became Senator of Nimba County.
Gould says Cummings then moved back to Monrovia and attended Monrovia Demonstration Elementary school and went on to CWA and then on to Cuttington University before moving on to the US to work.
Records show that Mr. Cummings has carried a Liberian passport since 1979 with regular renewals. “When the Liberian government change the passport system to the ECOWAS, he again obtained a passport. Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms that Mr. Cummings does carry a Liberian passport. It has also been established that his job at Coca-Cola did not warrant him being an American as the current CEO of Coca-Cola is a Turkish decent,” Gould explained.
At the height of the civil war scores of Liberians were forced to take up citizenships of other nations in a bid to survive. But the issue of dual citizenship has spurred a divide between Diaspora-based Liberians and those who remain in Liberia or chose not to take up foreign nationalities eventhough they took up refuge in other countries.
Sections 22.1 and 22.2 of the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia lists several acts that results in the automatic loss of Liberian citizenship by a Liberian national.
“A person loses his Liberian citizenship automatically when she (1) obtains naturalization in a foreign state, (2) takes an oath or declares allegiance to a foreign stat, (3) enters the armed forces of foreign state unless the President authorizes it, (4) votes in a political election in a foreign state or (5) formally renounces her Liberian nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of Liberia in a foreign state. The Government of Liberia is under no obligation to institute any proceedings to nullify and cancel a person’s citizenship in regards to the aforementioned acts.”
The suspension of the 1847 constitution following the military coup d’etat in 1980 led to the drafting of a new constitution which became effective in January 1986 after President Samuel Doe transformed his military brand to civilian life as first President of what is now dubbed, the Second Republic.
The obstacles standing in the way of proving whether or not one is a citizen of another country is remains difficult to prove. Rep. Acarous Gray when contacted Thursday did not return email seeking clarity on a photograph believed to be a portion of U.S. passport belonging to Weah but some elements in the media has in the past suggested that the passport is a photo-shop and not genuine.
For Cummings, the questions continue to pile up as many callers on the Prime Morning Drive Thursday, including CDC Montserrado County Representative Acarous Gray sought answers about his citizenship. Gray in particular, charged that while attending a gathering in the U.S. recently, Mr. Cummings reportedly admitted that he was an American citizenship.
“Remember that those who want to vie for presidency of our country must be very truthful,” said Rep. Gray. But Cummings insists he is a proud Liberian. “I’m a Liberia and in some ways, People do not have a lot to stick on me, but I am a Liberian, I was born a Liberian and I am proud to be a Liberian.”