Liberia: Dual Citizenship Becomes Legal
— ‘Once a Liberian, always a Liberian’ new legislation suggests
Liberia has joined a league of few African countries to remove the prohibition of dual citizenship to allow Liberians of 18 years and older, who acquired the citizenship of another country, to regain their Liberian citizenship.
This measure was not possible a few days ago, as it was illegal in Liberia to possess dual citizenship. Lawmakers and policymakers alike were reluctant to legalize dual citizenship, arguing the patriotism of people with dual citizenship could be questioned.
However, with much research, debate and deliberation over recent years among Liberians at home and in the diaspora communities, notably in Europe and America, the case has been made for bringing our politically disenfranchised kin back to the fold.
And while there was a significant and long-standing economic case — remittances and such — in favor of dual citizenship, the social and political implications appeared to upstage the effort, until now.
And so, after decades of prohibition, the Senate and the House of Representatives have now moved to recognize the holistic potential of the Liberian diaspora and the advantage of granting them the opportunity to hold dual citizenship — albeit with some restrictions to protect the rights of those who do not subscribe to dual citizenship.
The restrictions, according to the lawmakers, strike a compromise between supporting the ambitions of Liberians abroad and resolving the worries of those at home, and it would help reduce popular resentment against dual citizenship stemming from socioeconomic inequities in Liberia. As a result of this balancing, would-be dual citizens are barred from holding crucial posts affecting national security, law enforcement, and the economy, as is the case in many African nations with comparable legislation.
However, dual nationality Liberians will retain some additional rights and benefits that come with being a Liberian citizen, as well as being eligible for certain (not all) governmental positions.
“A Liberian citizen who holds citizenship for another country shall not be eligible for any elective public office while still a citizen of another country,” the legislature said in the repeal of the Aliens and Nationality Law.
“If such a person desires to contest, the person must renounce the citizenship of the other country at least one year before applying to the National Elections Commission (NEC) to contest with documentary evidence of such renunciation from the country and filed with a circuit court in Liberia.”
“Also, a Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country must not be eligible for appointment to the public offices of Minister of Finance and Development Planning; Minister of Defense, and Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.”
The Senate and House voted separately in their chambers to modify the 1973 Alien and Nationality Act, which conflicted with the country’s 1986 Constitution. The Alien and Nationality Law in its previous form prohibited Liberian citizen women from passing on citizenship to their children born overseas.
Title 3 of the Liberian Code of Laws of 1956, known as the Aliens and Nationality Law, was amended and repealed during the Forty-Fifth Legislature, and Title 4 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised was adopted in its place as the new Aliens and Nationality Law. On May 15, 1973, this was authorized, and revisions were approved on May 9, 1974. Dual citizenship was illegal under Sessions 22.1 and 22.2 of the law, however, the repeal by the legislature has affected these sections -- paving the way for dual citizenship.
But this would no longer be the case, as the repealed law, now allows any person who is a negro or of negro descent, born in Liberia and a person born outside of the country, “whose father and mother were either born a citizen of Liberia or was a citizen of Liberia at the time of birth, such a person is qualified to be a citizen.”
Also, a person under the age of 18 years, according to the law, “whose natural biological parents are not citizens of Liberia but who is adopted by a citizen of Liberia, shall automatically become a citizen of Liberia by virtue of such adoption if such person is a negro or of a negro descent.”
The amendment said a person of negro descent who marries a Liberian citizen “shall become a citizen of Liberia by virtue of such marriage without affecting that person’s citizenship before marriage.”
“Such a person needs only to appear before a Liberian consul in any country or before a circuit Judge in Liberia and take an oath of allegiance.”
However, before the repeal takes effect, as required under the Constitution, it must be signed by President George Weah who, since the dawn of his administration, has been supportive of such a cause. This move could see Liberia joining Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia granting the right of dual citizenship and equal rights to citizens who have lost their citizenship due to naturalization as a citizen of another country.
It can be recalled that during Weah’s first State of Nation Address, he promised to make dual citizenship a priority.