5 Diaspora Orgs. Take Dual Citizenship Case to Senate

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Emmanuel S. Wettee Chairman of the All Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship

 Say they feel strongly bound by blood to their ancestral homeland.

At least five Liberian diaspora organizations have sent a letter to the Liberian Senate pointing out that the automatic loss of citizenship for 500, 000 Liberians naturalizing abroad is a serious legal hurdle facing thousands of Liberians who intend to maintain their Liberian citizenship.

The five groups are the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), the European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA), the Federation of Liberian Communities in Australia (FOLICA), Inc., Conference of Liberian Organizations in the Southwestern United States (COLOSUS) and the United Liberian Association in Ghana (ULAG).

Also attested to the letter to the Liberian Senate is Mr. John F. Lloyd, National Chairman Coalition of Concern Liberians (CCL).

They told the Senate that they feel strongly bound by blood to their ancestral homeland. More importantly, naturalization abroad is a privilege subject to conditions that can be withdrawn but their Liberian citizenship is a birthright.

Pointing out that words are inadequate to express how enormously grateful “we are for this opportunity to discuss Dual Citizenship in the Senate,” they said the vast majority of “us were uprooted by intractable conflicts that forced us to settle abroad. As immigrants, we are faced with enormous challenges almost on a daily basis, and we have to do what we can to get by.”

They said in truth, “assuming citizenship abroad is a tough decision for many Liberians, and often it is more about survival, and bread and butter issue for our families and relatives back home. Nearly all Liberians that have assumed citizenship abroad have done so not with the intent to abandon their Liberian citizenship but to increase their opportunities and chances of survival.”

The group said “One major benefit of being a citizen in many countries is the opportunity to acquire government jobs. In the United States, for example, many federal, state and local government jobs require citizenship. Some of the best jobs in the United States are federal government jobs and are only available to citizens.

“Today, there are hundreds of Liberians and those of Liberian parentage who are postal workers, Peace Corps, law enforcement officers, lawyers, court clerks, doctors, registered nurses, engineers and other professionals working for the United States federal government and other governments in Europe or Australia. We strongly believe that Liberian professionals who desire to return home should be seen as assets to the land of our nativity. Additionally, there is a huge pool of Liberian athletes abroad who could help to increase Liberia’s chances in international competitions such as the Olympics but they are dual citizens.”

They added, “For many of our young people in the United States, joining the military after high school or college affords them the best employment opportunities which come with good salaries, amazing benefits, incredible pension and good educational packages. But the Alien and Nationality law prescribes automatic loss of citizenship for enlisting in a foreign army.”

They informed the senators that, “nearly all Liberians abroad cannot afford the cost of college education for themselves and their children. In the United States, Liberian families rely heavily on financial assistance, including student loans and government grants, for college education. But only citizens and eligible non citizens can receive government financial assistance.

“Legal residents with expired green cards will always have to renew their cards to remain eligible, and this takes time and is expensive. Moreover, certain government grants such as Fulbright scholarships are not available to non-citizens who have legal permanent residency status in the United States. Several foundations also provide scholarships only to citizens.

“When the war was raging,” they informed the Senate, “many of us were faced with high-pressure situations to get family members and relatives out to safety. Therefore, many Liberians opted to gain citizenship abroad so that their family members and relatives could join them. Thousands came to the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries. Many remain the only lifelines for relatives in Liberia, sending remittances each month in millions of United States dollars.”

They said many Liberians who fled the country are now reaching retirement age. “Some are returning home and many are planning to do so out of the desire to contribute to the nation-building efforts and to establish businesses.  Many will leave behind families including children and grandchildren as it is difficult to uproot a family that has already settled, and jobs in Liberia are scarce. But if you are not a citizen, staying long outside could mean losing the ability to return to families for visits.”

They said circumstances and situations dictated what they did in the best interests of their families and relatives in Liberia.   “As terrible as the Liberian civil war was, it presented unique opportunities to thousands of Liberians to re-settle abroad. Today, there is almost no city, town or village in Liberia that does not have family members residing in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.  This is something we must celebrate because it is opening up tremendous opportunities for families and relatives on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The group, also known as the All-Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship, appealed to the Senate to support dual citizenship and to vote for the bill introduced by Senator Varney Sherman, because it will adequately address concerns about unscrupulous dual citizens fleeing from prosecution for corruption.

The letter, approved by  Emmanuel S. Wettee, Chairman of the All Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship, made references to countries such as South Africa, Israel, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Slovenia that experienced high refugee populations but allow their citizens or descendants to hold dual citizenships.

The group said the loss of citizenship will be a nightmare for 500,000 Liberians because only a citizen can own real property in Liberia. “Many Liberians abroad, particularly those who acquired or inherited real properties and those who wish to do so, want to return home someday and participate in the development of the country. Many have the potential to invest and set up businesses and spur economic activities throughout the country but they cannot legally own real properties. Needless to say, only Liberians and those of Liberian parentage can develop Liberia, and outsiders can only help.”

Authors

9 COMMENTS

  1. An anonymous philosopher once said, “Laws are not invented; they grow out of circumstances. Laws and institutions are constantly tending to gravitate. Like clocks, they must be occasionally cleansed, and wound up, and set to true time.”

    Why were some portions of Liberia’s original 1847 constitution amended? Because, as stated above, “Like clocks, they must be occasionally cleansed, and wound up, and set to true time.” Why not set those provisions in Liberia’s current 1986 Constitution, especially the portion that deals with “loss of Citizenship” in Article 30 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e).

    Yet, Article 29 (a) states that no person shall be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality. However, when you do change citizenship or nationality, you are automatically denied your original Liberian citizenship by virtue of Article 30. How ironic!

    Remember, Laws are not static. At certain time, it was necessary for the PRC government to amend portions of the old constitution because it did not conform to the realities of that time.

    Therefore a new constitution was written in 1986 to meet that reality. Unfortunately, while writing the 1986 constitution, no one or constitutional scholars predated that Liberia was ever going to be plunged into a full scale bloody civil that lasted almost fourteen years, and resulted in the death of 250,000 Liberians. This new reality caused a mass exodus of Liberian citizens to settle in foreign lands thus allowing them out of necessity to acquire new citizenship. Then, why should they (Liberian immigrants) and Liberians born in the Diaspora be punished unjustly for acquiring new nationalities?

    Countries that had similar fate are amending their constitutions to the best of their abilities to incorporate their citizens living in the Diaspora because of the tremendous benefits (brain-gain) they could bring back to their place of origin or their ancestral homelands. Israel is utilizing this method effectively.

    There are proponents (Sen. Varney Sherman) and opponents (Sen. Prince Johnson) of dual citizenship amendment to our constitution. The learned lawyer, Senator Sherman, laid down some tangible reasons and benefits of granting dual citizenship to his fellow Liberians.

    I fully agree with Counsellor Sherman. There must be caveat or limitations on what type of highly sensitive jobs one with dual citizenship can hold namely: Head of The Central Bank of Liberia. Also: President and V.P. position should not be given to Liberians with dual citizenship. Matter of national security…this is my opinion.

    Liberians in diaspora have made and continue to make many sacrifices to keep Liberia’s fragile economy afloat during and after the war. This shows how ungrateful some Liberians are. “Do not bite the hands that feed you” my fellow Liberians at home. There are many economic benefits to Liberia if dual-citizenship were granted to our fellow Liberians living in the Diaspora.

    As the great U.S. President FDR once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Present economic and political circumstances should deem it necessary to grant Liberians living in the Diaspora dual-citizenship. It is time to cleanse Liberia’s rigged 1986 PRC Military Constitution (concocted under duress) and set our laws to present day democratic constitutional realities.

    So help us God!!!!

  2. The bottom line here is thatm power hungry politicians (not all of them) in this country fear that our brothers and sisters from the diaspora will dominate them and hold them accountable for their actions!

  3. Mr. Wettee, thank you for all of your efforts. You’re a valuable asset to the Liberian diaspora in general and for all of your engagements in the Liberian community of Columbus, OH USA. Please continue to fight the good fight. I’ll also like to thank all of the various organizations for pushing this agenda forward.

  4. Despite the negativity on the grounds, we need ALL of Liberia’s children to remain in the family. We cannot expect to make progress by separating ourselves and out-casting valued human resources for selfish political gain. Now Liberians in the Diaspora need to unite. An All-Liberian conference is now necessary, not only to deal with this issue, but also the lingering immigration problem of other Liberians abroad.

    • Do you think dual citizenship should be a top priority or accountability?. Victims of war in the Diaspora will not come to Liberia when warlords who raped, turtored and murdered their families are roaming the streets freely in Liberia with impunity. Dual Citizenship Campaigners are driven by personal interests by handful of cliques in ULAA. It is time to put mama Liberia’s interest first by implementing TRC report to address the needs of war victims in addition to dual citizenship as recommended by TRC report!.

  5. Do you think dual citizenship should be a top priority or accountability?. Victims of war in the Diaspora will not come to Liberia when warlords who raped, turtored and murdered their families are roaming the streets freely in Liberia with impunity. Dual Citizenship Campaigners are driven by personal interests by handful of cliques in ULAA. It is time to put mama Liberia’s interest first by implementing TRC report to address the needs of war victims in addition to dual citizenship as recommended by TRC report!.

  6. This fine effort by the Liberian Diaspora will ultimately be blocked strangled by lawmakers not because of any real threats posed to Liberia but because of certain politicians who dread the thought of being upstaged by, especially and specifically, the Liberian Americans. Never mind all the expressed reasons and/or benefits for granting dual-citizenship. Bear in mind that the rank and file Liberian politician has and will always vote his own interests first. No, no! Ain’t gonna happen.

  7. If Liberian politicians fear competition for their Jobs from Diaspora, then they should include a residency requirement for running and holding political positions.

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