— Says ALCOD Chairman Emmanuel S. Wettee
The Chairman of the All-Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship (ALCOD), Emmanuel S. Wettee, has clarified that the recently approved Dual Citizenship law in no way makes any natural-born Liberian holding other citizenship less Liberian.
Wettee’s clarity comes in the wake of apparent “misunderstanding” of the law among his colleagues in the Diaspora, as it relates to natural-born Liberians bearing citizenship of another country.
Wettee added that many in the Diaspora harbor the belief that natural-born Liberians with citizenship of another country as per the law are second-class citizens in Liberia.
“In Article 4, the law said, ‘Limitation of a Liberian Citizen who holds the citizenship of another country.’ The law did not say limitation of a natural-born Liberian Citizen who holds the citizenship of another country or limitation of a naturalized Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country,” Wettee claimed. “The law says a Liberian Citizen, who has citizenship of another country. That Liberian citizen could be a natural-born or a naturalized Liberian.”
According to Wettee, Diaspora Liberians are interpreting “A Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country…” to mean natural-born Liberians with citizenship of another country and not a naturalized Liberian with citizenship of another country.
Article 4 of the law states that “A Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country shall not be eligible for any elective public office while still a citizen of another country. Should such person desire to contest for elective public office, the person must renounce the citizenship of the other country at least one (1) year prior to applying to the National Elections Commission to contest for an elective public office and such documentary evidence of such renunciation of citizenship of the other country shall be filed with a circuit court in Liberia and with the National Elections Commission at least one (1) year before application to the National Elections Commission to contest for elective public office.
Section 2, which is one limitation on appointment to certain public offices, states that “A Liberian citizen, who holds the citizenship of another country, shall not be eligible for appointment to the public office of Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Minister of Defense and Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.
However, Wettee argues that the law did not mention natural-born or naturalized Liberian citizens.
‘It says ‘A Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country and that person could be a natural-born or a naturalized Liberian,” Wettee noted. “It is only in Article 52 of the Liberian constitution that ‘natural’ is used as an adjective to describe a Liberian.
Article 52: “No person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice-President, unless that person is: “A natural born Liberian citizen of not less than 35 years of age.”
Meanwhile, Wettee has disclosed that ALCOD has begun consultation with the Commissioner General of Liberia Immigration Service, Colonel Robert W. Budy and Cllr. Deweh Gray, Deputy Minister of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to develop an operational definition of the law as it relates to their respective offices or jurisdictions.
ALCOD represents over 500,000 Liberians living in the Diaspora. And after lobbying for dual citizenship since 2005, ALCOD got its wish in June 2022, when President George Weah signed into law the dual citizenship act, which was sponsored by ALCOD.
The law is entitled: “An Act to Amend And/Or Nullify Certain Provisions of The Alien and Nationality Law Relating to Citizenship and Restoring the Citizenship Rights Lost As A Consequence of Those Provisions”.
The passage of the law received acclamations from many quarters, including the UN. Specifically, on August 11, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) “applauded Liberia’s historic move breaking the gender barrier to conferring nationality. Gender discrimination in nationality laws remains a primary cause of statelessness among children, and this development speaks to Liberia’s commitment to tackle this issue,” said Gillian Triggs, the UN Refugee Agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
“In short, this law legally allows a child by a Liberian woman to take the citizenship of their mother and be a Liberian, irrespective of the citizenship or nationality of their biological father. This law allows more than 10,000 stateless children born by Liberian women to take the citizenship of their mother and now can call themselves Liberian citizens,” Wettee said.
This law reflects the current reality of Liberian citizens’ definition as a direct result of the 14-year senseless civil war: “A person who is a negro, or of negro descent, born in Liberia, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof at birth; or a person born outside of the Republic of Liberia, whose father or mother (i) was born a citizen of Liberia; or (ii) was citizen of Liberia at the time of the birth of such person.”
Wettee further stated that the Dual Citizenship Law allows citizenship by adoption, marriage, restores the Liberian citizenship of natural-born Liberians and their children who have citizenship or nationality of another country, gives voting and land ownership rights to Liberians with other citizenship or nationality and, above all, makes “Once a Liberian, always a Liberian” a reality.