Liberia: ALCOD Hopeful of Joint Committee Concurring on Dual Citizenship Bill

— Senate’s version of the bill raises serious concern among Diaspora Liberians

By Alaskai Moore Johnson

The Chairman of the All-Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship (ALCOD), Emmanuel  Wettee, has expressed hope that the Bill on dual citizenship will be passed into law in spite of the hiccups it is facing at the moment. 

Wettee’s optimism comes as some of his colleagues in the Diaspora have begun expressing frustrations over the slow pace at which the House of Representatives and Senate Joint Conference Committee on the passage of the Dual Citizenship Bill is working. 

According to them, since the Senate passed their version of the Dual Citizenship bill, it has been more than two months and the joint committee has only met once with nothing concrete coming out of it. The House on Nov. 11, 2021,  voted to amend the Alien and Nationality Law, and a year later, on May 20, voted to concur with the House of Representatives. 

However, the Senate’s version of the bill differs significantly from that of what the House had passed and sent for concurrence.   The Act that the House voted for, was co-sponsored by 30 lawmakers from the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Acarous Gray. 

Read in the Plenary of the House on November 2, 2021, it sought to amend Part III, Chapter 20, Section 20.1; Chapter 21, Sections 21.30, 21.31, 21.51 & 21.52, and Chapter 22, Sections 22.1, 22.1 & 22.4 of the Aliens and Nationality Law of the Liberian Code of Law Revised, Vol. II. 

The House passed its version of the bill without any “limitations” for Liberians of natural birth, but with citizenship of another country. 

However, the Senate passed its version with several “limitations” for Liberians in that category.  It is for this reason that the leadership of the Senate and the House had to set up a Joint Conference Committee to work to fine-tune the bill so that it can be harmonized and their differences reconciled. 

The House’s side of the Joint Committee is being led by Gbarpolu County’s District #2 Rep. Kanie Wesso, while the Senate’s side is led by Grand Cape Mount County Sen. Varney Sherman. 

Senate Limits Liberians’ Rights

Under Part III Section 1 (Limitation of a Liberian Holding Citizenship of Another Country from Certain Elective Offices) of the Senate’s version of the bill, the Senate says, “A Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country shall not be eligible to be elected President of Liberia, Vice President of Liberia, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Senator, Representative or to any other elective public office.”

Section 2: “A Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country shall not be eligible for appointment to any of the following positions in the Government of Liberia (i) Minister and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, (ii) Minister and Deputy Minister of State for Presidential Affairs; (iii) Minister and Deputy Minister of Finance and Development Planning; (iv) Minister and Deputy Minister of Justice; Minister and Deputy Minister of Defense (v) Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia; (vi) Inspector General of the Liberia National Police; (vii) Commissioner-General of the Liberia Immigration Service; (viii) heads and deputy heads of [all] autonomous commissions and agencies; (ix) Executive Governor and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia; and (x) heads or deputy heads of [all] public corporations and parastatal.” 

Senators Who Barred Their Fellow Liberians 

The Senate’s Plenary had voted on the bill based on the advice and recommendations from members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims, and Petitions, including Senators Atty. J. Emmanuel Nuquay, Numene T. H. Bartekwa, Abraham Darius Dillon, and Atty, Stephen A. H. Zargo. Others are Cllr. Augustine Chea, Cllr. Morris D. Saytumah and Cllr. Varney Gboto-Nambi Sherman. 

ALCOD’s discomfort 

ALCOD, through its Eminent Chairman Wettee, has expressed its discomfort with those sections that would limit dual citizens from holding certain offices. “We believe in the doctrine that ‘Once a Liberian, always a Liberian.’” 

Some Senators Not Happy

Despite the Senate’s version of the bill, there are reports that some members of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and the Senate itself have also expressed their displeasure with the restrictions on their fellow Liberians.  However, these senate members have said that they had to agree with the version so that the Senate Plenary could vote on the bill and that all their areas of concern can be worked on during the Joint Conference Committee. 

ALCOD Still Hopeful 

Despite this hiccup, ALCOD is not discouraged altogether. Nearly all members of the ALCOD delegation that came to celebrate this milestone have now returned to their bases in Europe, the Americas, and other parts of the world. Even though the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) National President Shiwoh Kamara, Kingston Wreh of ALCOD’s Europe Chapter, and others have returned, they asked Wettee to stay on the ground and continue the mutual engagements with the Senate and House on the reconciliation of both versions of the bill. 

ALCOD, which represents more than 500,000 Liberians living in the diaspora, includes ULAA, European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA), Liberian Advocacy for Change (LAFC), Federation of Liberia Communities in Australia (FLCA), United Liberian Association of Ghana (ULAG), Liberian Association of Canada (LAC), and Conference of Liberian Organizations in the Southwestern United States of America (CLOSUSA).
The Diaspora conglomeration hopes that the joint committee can speedily harmonize the bill and that President George Weah can sign it into law as part of the July 26 Independence Day celebrations. The President is said to be working with members of the Senate and House to resolve the matter and this has kept the optimism of ALCOD alive.