Liberian Dual Citizenship Holders Not Eligible For Key Government Positions – Historically, Liberia is a country of dual citizens, with the exception of the original tribes, who became citizens on January 4, 1904, based on President Arthur Barclay’s Native Plan. According to the Plan, original inhabitants of the land had to apply for citizenship on the following grounds:
“The willingness of applicants to qualify for Liberian citizens by adopting the Christian faith, Western living conditions, and Western standards of conduct, dress, and general appearance. An African, in effect, would have to detach himself from his own customs by completely accepting the Americo-Liberian set of values.
President Arthur Barclay who established the ‘Native Plan’ parents were immigrants from the West Indies. The fourteenth president of Liberia, Arthur Barclay was born on July 31, 1854, in Bridgetown, Barbados to Anthony Barclay and Sara Ann Bourne Barclay. The Barclays immigrated with their ten children to Liberia in 1865 while Arthur was then eleven years old.
The Good Guy Role
Senator Varney G. Sherman gave Liberians in the Diaspora hope with his double messaging – saying one thing and meaning a totally different thing.
For example, during the kicked off the debate on the Act which called for Amendment in the Alien and Nationality Law, and Dual Citizenship, Senator Sherman, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, described the laws as “inhumane, cruel and is contrary to the new terms of nationality concepts and practices.”
He added: “Most Liberians, who have taken United States citizenship, did not do so out of hatred for their motherland, Liberia, but due to circumstances that were beyond the reach of some.” These are his words!
He explained further, “due to the country’s civil war, many people, including youth migrated to other countries in search of peace, security, economic opportunities, and some had to obtain the citizenship of these countries in order to fully enjoy the peace, security and economic opportunities for which they fled Liberia.
“For example, if you are a citizen of the United States and you are a resident of a state, to enter a university, especially a university of that State, the fee is 75 percent to 80 percent less than the person who is not an official resident or citizen.
So some of these young people assumed dual citizenship because that was the only way to go to school since they could not afford the high fees as non-citizen,” Sen. Sherman said.
“Why should we punish them by the law of the Liberian citizenship, which I submit is inhumane, cruel and is contrary to the new terms and nationality concepts and practices, because our Constitution says that no law should be made which is inhumane, which is cruel.
I don’t think we are treating these people, our fellow citizens some of whom are our children fairly,” Sen. Sherman argued.
According to the Senator, it is “the generally accepted practice, which is done in almost all of the West African countries, except Liberia. Research has shown that dual citizenship enhances social harmony, and stimulates economic development through the participation of the dual citizen in the economy of the lesser developed country whose citizenship he or she holds.”
Based on Senator Sherman’s earlier arguments, I agreed when he said, “…Liberia should nullify these laws against dual citizenship and assume the modern term by giving dual citizenship to Liberians.”
But now, I disagreed with the limitation he placed on Diaspora Dual Citizens; especially, for NOT to be eligible to hold the office of the President, Vice President, Chief Justice, Speaker, Senate Pro Tempore, Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance & Development Planning, among others.
The Diaspora Liberians Dual Citizenship proposal submitted by Senator Varney G. Sherman failed miserably to take into consideration Liberia’s history of immigration; instead, he proposed an Apartheid style Dual Citizenship for Diaspora Liberians.
Senator Sherman’s Dual Citizenship proposal is disingenuous, at best – “tautology” and can be described as Apartheidor ‘taxation without representation’. In other words, Liberians in the Diaspora can become dual citizens but cannot enjoy full rights and privileges accorded citizens in the country of their birth; even if they are the most qualified!
Such citizenship reminds me of Montgomery, Alabama, where African-Americans were allowed to ride public transportation, but must sit in a certain area – the back of the bus, even when there are empty seats in the front.
Liberian Citizenship is our birthrights; therefore, the Liberian Legislature cannot deny us these rights because they feared us. We were born Liberians, therefore, we are prepared to see to its restoration.
We take our strengths from the profound statement made by Tony Lawrence:
Too many people are only willing to defend rights that are personally important to them. It’s selfish ignorance, and it’s exactly why totalitarian governments are able to get away with trampling on people. Freedom does not mean freedom just for the things I think I should be able to do. Freedom is for all of us.
If people will not speak up for other people’s rights, there will come a day when they will lose their own.
In support of Lawrence’s statement, another unknown author wrote: “There are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened”.
We in the Diaspora fall in the first category – we make things happen. It has been our position in this journey of life.
The October 2, 2019 edition of the African Star reads, “Critics say the bill went too far in imposing harsh restrictions on dual citizens, who are mostly in the Diaspora, from participating and directing the political affairs of their country.
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“Vice President Jewel Taylor said during a press conference from her office inferred that the country cannot trust dual citizens who hold loyalty in other countries to occupy key positions in the Liberian government. She provided an example in which she indicated that dual citizens who are Americans will leave Liberia each year to file their taxes in the United States.”
I find it difficult how any Diaspora organization will accept Senator Sherman’s Apartheid Bill. Why would anyone accept a bill that makes dual citizens ineligible to occupy the positions of President, Vice President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker etc etc.
However, Mr. Emmanuel S. Wettee, Chairman of the Conference for Dual Citizenship told the African Star on Sunday, September 1, 2019, that he welcomes the bill because it represents an important start. He explained that his Conference of Liberians for Dual Citizenship feels that they have worked hard to reach this point.
He stressed that those who disagree with the current bill should start their advocacy. What an insult!
But, Mr. Toto, former National Chairman of ULAA, told the African Star on Sunday, September 1, 2019, that the bill went too far with the limitations it imposed on dual citizens. He added that the new bill is designed to protect the interests of the Liberian legislators who view Diaspora Liberians as a threat to their power.
Mr. Toto stressed that when the Legislature passed the bill and the President signs it in its current form, “We will campaign to have the dual citizenship amendment defeated in a referendum”.
According to the African Star, Mr. Dahn Dennis, president of the United Nimba Citizen Council (UNICCO) asserted that “the bill is ‘worthless’ and does not measure to a good work product to unite the Diaspora community to support Liberia’s recovery.
The bill is discriminatory and seeks to further divide Liberians who are supposed to rally their efforts to improve the living standards of the Liberian people. It is unfortunate for our country to deny its citizens participation in the governance of their country”.
Proponents of dual citizenship contend that the automatic loss of citizenship violates due process rights as provided for by the 1985 Liberian Constitution and negates the factors that created the Diaspora Liberian population. The dual citizenship arguments reached the Supreme Court of Liberia.
In the case: Alvin Teage Jalloh Versus Government of Liberia, Jalloh a dual citizen, who was born in Liberia and acquired U.S. citizenship, filed a petition with the West African nation’s Supreme Court to declare Chapter 22 Sections 22.1 and 22.2, Loss of Citizenship, of the 1974 Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia unconstitutional.
Jalloh argued that Chapter IV, Article 28 of the 1985 Constitution of Liberia indicates that “no citizen of the Republic (of Liberia) 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”.
This writer applauds Attorney Alvin Teage Jalloh for his tireless advocacy on behalf of Diaspora Liberians. Continue reading