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Liberia: The Senate’s Proposed Bill On Dual Citizenship: A Step-In Right Direction

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Applaud the Senate

As a researcher who has spent the last three years of my life researching in my native Liberia, my view, as a diaspora Liberia is different to those of my colleagues speaking in the Front-Page Africa on 8 October 2019. I believe that the Senate must be applauded for taking steps to compromise for the benefit of diaspora Liberians. There has been no independent report which suggests dual citizenship legislations encourages diaspora Liberians to drop whatever they are doing in foreign countries and return to Liberia to contribute. Neither is there any evidence that where dual citizenship has been offered in countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana or Nigeria, that it marked a sharp influx of educated diaspora groups of those countries’ citizens to return home and take up employment to support national development. Clearly, the effort by the Senate, is one of great sacrifice to apiece diaspora Liberians.

Helping Liberia does not have to come from public office

The next thing that I would like to say here is that when Mo Sonnie of (ULO-UK), Arthur Watson, Chairman Emeritus of ULAA, Anthony Kesselly also formerly of ULAA and Mayango Arku of EFLA insinuate that restricting diaspora Liberians who choose to have foreign passports from holding selected public offices would undermine their contribution to the nation building of Liberia, that is disingenuous and only serves to highlight the backward mindset of Liberians. As a former Secretary General of ULO-UK, working closely with our former President Evelyn Duke-De-Shield and Vice-President Lena Thoma-Marshall, we accomplished a lot in Liberia without holding any of the selected positions that the Senate’s bill puts restrictions on. We gave food and clothing to orphaned Liberians, we gave supplies to new-born mothers at hospitals across Liberia and empowered young women entrepreneurs. We signed memorandum of understandings with Liberian based charities and raised funds and equipment for them, all without holding any of the government offices which would be off limits for Liberians with dual citizenship. 

This goes to the core of the problems in our country. This is bigger than dual citizenship. Since the foundation of the nation state of Liberia, every Liberian has always felt that the only way that they can make a lasting contribution to building the country is by holding a government office. That mindset is now the main reason for most of the negative comments about the proposed bill from the Senate.

Lest we forget the Corkrum affair

My reading of the Senate’s proposals are based on the fact that Liberians with passports of powerful nations like the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) could come to Liberia and hold government offices where they are in charge of making decisions about money, carry out corrupt acts and flee to those countries and can never be punished in Liberia because those countries will not turn over their citizens to be tried by Liberia, as we have seen with Corkrum. 

One size does not fit all

It is irritating when Liberians who claim to have never obtained a foreign passport whilst living out of Liberia, join the debate on dual citizenship and argues that because they did it everyone should do it. If you do not have something valuable to contribute to the debate, then find somewhere to hide. Most of you have foreign passports that you hide when you go to Liberia. Others might have come from privileged backgrounds and their names were enough to get them through many doors. There are many Liberians who genuinely obtained foreign passports because of the ease it brought to their lives. The ease of travelling on business trips across Europe with a British passport which does not need a visa than a Liberian passport. The ease of proving that you have the right to work in the country you live in without being asked for multiple evidences. The ease of being able to bring members of your family from Liberia to the UK or US because you are a citizen and not merely a green card or resident permit holder. 

A journey of a thousand miles…

Article 28 has been around for over one hundred years; it cannot be completely overturned in a few years. This effort by the Senate is a step in the right direction and must be applauded. Liberian citizenship is a right and a privilege. Liberia is also a country of laws. Whether we liked it or not the law said that obtaining another citizenship meant that you lose your Liberian citizenship. the Senate believes that it is an unfair law and are trying to change it. We should be supporting their effort, instead of tearing them down with baseless comments. As my mother always tells me, Rome was not built in one day. Furthermore, one of the main concerns of home-based Liberians regarding the dual citizenship issue is the fear that diaspora Liberians would come and take their jobs. By putting in these restrictions now, it gives us, diaspora Liberians a chance to prove that theory wrong. However, when we start to argue about jobs before the bill is passed, it stokes the fear of home-based Liberians, that all we want is government jobs.

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