Former Foreign Minister Raises Red Flag on Citizenship Amendment

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Former Foreign Minister OluBanke King-Akerele

Wants LNBA to speak out

Former Foreign Minister OluBanke King-Akerele yesterday raised serious public concern about one of the four ‘controversial’ bills to grant citizenship to non-Negros and to allow natural born Liberians to have dual citizenship that is currently being debated by members of the House of Representative.

The Citizen Amendment is aimed at removing the “discriminatory” Negro clause and open citizenship to any race, while at the same time defining natural born Liberians and allowing them to have dual citizenship.

The amendment will upset Articles 27 and 28 of the Liberian Constitution.

Mrs. Akerele who yesterday served as keynote speaker at the annual assembly of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) said, a combination of non-Negro and dual citizenship into one bill was not in the best interest of the country because the issue is very critical and has to do with constitutionality.

“You cannot combine Liberian born outside of the country opting for dual citizenship to that of non-Negro in the same bill and that is worrisome and it has a different motive. This bill is confusing and you have to speak out to educate our masses,” Akerele said.

She suggested that there was no need for Liberians to rush to make non-Negros citizens.

Speaking on the topic, “Investing in the Rule of Law, A Sine Qua Non for Socio-Political and Economic Development and Sustainable Peace in Liberia,” Akerele said, the bill is premature and it needs to be carefully studied with sufficient understanding from the LNBA to advise stakeholders including President George Weah.

Akerele said, for too long the LNBA has been silent on major issues that have to do with the future of the country, but, it is time for them to speak out on the issue of making non-Negros citizens.

“We need guidance and Liberians need to speak out and President George Weah also needs to be properly advised to understand sufficiently the dimension of the issue,” Akerele indicated.

The ex-foreign minister noted that removing the Negro clause has to do with constitutionality and it is the lawyers that can better help the public to understand its implications for the country.

“The removal of the clause must be done with sufficient protection of the interest of our people and sufficient time must be given for us to study its pros and cons,” Akerele told her audience of lawyers. “You know that joining the two is not correct and let nobody rush us because they are separate issues.”

“This is the future of our country and you have been silent for too long, it is time for you to speak out and provide education to the public to make informed decisions on the bill,” she told the lawyers.

She added “We need to hear your voice on the issue of the Negro clause on where you stand and to educate us. You need to tell us the consequences.”

28 COMMENTS

  1. The honorable former foreign minister OluBanke King-Akerele admonishes us that “there was no need for Liberians to rush to make non-Negros citizens.” How interesting!! I wonder how she would feel, if the shoe were on the other foot? After nearly 171 years of this “racist” clause in Liberia’s Constitution, that excludes people from acquiring Liberian citizenship simply because of their race!! Ah, well, just my two cent view.
    Konia T. Kollehlon

    • I love when Africans people fight battles on behalf of White, Asians, Arab and nonblacks.

      I wonder if you are calling the Libyan government racist for allowing African ppl to be taken as slaves in 2018.
      I wonder if you are calling the Lebanese government racist for allowing domestic workers to be turned into slaves.
      I wonder if you are calling Arab countries governments racist.

      The shoe is on the other foot, go to Lebanon, China and India see how you are treated there as an African/Negro.

      Liberia has bigger problems than giving citizenship to Chinese, Lebanese and Indian ppl who only want it to exploit Liberia.

  2. I don’t know King-Akerele. Never have I been a supporter of hers. Frankly, it’s premature to shower accolades on someone if you don’t know a whole lot about that person. But in all matters, the truth must be told. As it relates to King-Akerele’s stated perspective, I agree with her completely. Without a shred of doubt, a good debate is needed on the topic of non-black land ownership and citizenship in Liberia. There’s no need to rush. There’s no crime committed. Having a snail’s-pace debate is healthy educationally and does not mean that non-blacks will bomb us into smitherens next year if we fail to act now. Shoo! If all non-blacks feel that way, well then, they can take a walk behind JFK hospital.
    More time is needed on the issue of non-black land ownership because Liberia is afflicted with many problems. Example, unemployment in Liberia is at an all time high, motor roads are not the best, in fact, more motor roads need to be constructed, more affordable housing is an absolute must, schools need to be built, etc.

    To say we ought to be careful is not being racist. A careful approach in dealing with this issue is something that’s in the best interest of Liberia.

  3. Combining dual citizenship for Liberian born citizens and citizenship for non-negroes into one bill is very wrong. The two issues are not the same and have very different implications. You cannot place natural born Liberians on the same playing field as non-negroes.

    • They Combine the two together inorder to get the bill the past.

      Liberians will truly see and understand what racism is if they allow non-black to become citizens.

    • Those naturally born Liberians who have acquired citizenship in other nations have forfeited their Liberian citizeship. By law, they are no longer covered by the citizenship law of Liberia. There is another group of individuals who, though naturally born in Liberia, are currently prevented by law from getting Liberian citizenship because of their race. Now, since the new law is to grant both groups Liberian citizenship, it is only logical that they be dealt with in tandem. To treat the two separately creates the danger of one group receiving preferential treatment over the other.

      • Your post seems strange and manipulative. Did the draft bill specify natural born for non-negro?

        The bill talks about granting non-negros citizenship; it did not specify natural born or foreign born. Please get your understanding right, then you can make your case whatever which way.

  4. The non Negro claus that was inserted into our constitution by our founding fathers was legitimate. It was done at a time when ex-slaves were getting away from being subjected to slavery by whites in the antebellum South in the United States, that eventually led to the American civil war. Our President, Weah and those who do not understand why this claus meant are acting on impulse and ignorance of the Liberian constitution. Former Minister King-Akerele is absolutely correct to insist that the citizens be educated on the ramifications of such a move. I see nothing racist about the decision that was made 171 years ago. Just imagine this. The person who enslaved you in his house, and considered you 3/5th of a human being is welcome to occupy your home after you have gain your freedom from his enslavement. Think about it.

    • But then why did they not make the indigeonous people citizens. The indegenous people were black so why only the Americo-Liberian ? It was an elite law,

      • Where you got your information? This was never a part of the constitution. The constitution claim you had to be a property owner in order to cast a ballot in an election and this has been corrected. Don’t miss lead the public like Mathews and his folks did that got us in this mess. Let’s work together for a better Liberia. Duel citizenship will do better for Liberia economic right now. Be reminded, It’s Liberians oversea who have held the country economic up with their remittances. Many of us are now retired but we can’t forego our benefits and returned home.

    • I agree with you my dear, we have to be very careful, these people coming know what they want, the know that we need money so they think we doom to give now and the theft can come in the time they know that Liberian people need help and like this we can get land, but if we are not careful and sail our land just because we need help now and do not want to wait for our self and better days for our generation, then we might end up like in the days of South African. So for this reason I say no to white people buying land, we need our land . we also love the white people, but we Liberian should first seek our interested. They are not the European that we know. No black can buy land in the country. Liberia let us take it easy and help en-power our new president because he new but we all hope that will do good if we stand together to speak the truth to him with love and with respect he do his best and we all together will be happy . My second part, these white people can only buy land if they get marry to Liberian and have children in Liberia because this is how it work in the white man
      country as well To say we ought to be careful

  5. I do agree with the minister and I think combining the two into one bill is a terrible error. But then again it is possible combining them is by design. The crafters of these bills know that allowing them to stand alone on their own merit, the bill to allow non-negro citizenship will never see a day light from the Liberian people; so combining them is their best shot at passing it. Either this bill is going to be approved in its entirety or it won’t.

    It makes me to wonder why the crafters of this bill would want to combine these two bills into one when they know Liberians have been asked this very question in the past with a resounding no response. There are two possible answers: either the crafters’ intention had always been not to allow dual citizenship and the best way to accomplish this without being publicly callout is through clandestine means, or the only way they can get this non-negro clause removed from the constitution is by combining the two. We all know support for dual citizenship among diaspora Liberians is overwhelmingly high and the way to tame it down is by allowing this to go through referendum where it could be thwarted.

    The question of amending the constitution to remove a “racist clause” as some would call it needs extensive discussion and education among stakeholders. I do agree with the minister that Liberians need to fully understand the pros and cons of this change being advocated. Perhaps, this issue has not been fully deliberated on to weigh the pros and cons and that could be the reason why most Liberians don’t support it. Trying to force it through the Liberian people throat is a dangerous proposition and therefore must be discouraged. It is sad that lawyers in the country sit by idle and don’t want to voice out on this critical issue. They will be ill-serving their profession if they do not speak out and help educate our people!

  6. Our so-called educated people. She sat there and enjoyed life with Ellen and now she wants to talk nonsense. Was Charles D B King not one of the elites who oppressed the indigenous people? What have we accomplished with our Black only clause. No development, poopoo in the streets, pee in the water, no light, but everyday begging the white man to help. Let the people on TPS come back home and build the country. Foolish woman

  7. Whether the bills are lumped or not, the people of Liberia should be fully informed. The debate should be held until everyone knows where we stand. I am afraid that the poor people who live in the countryside could be impacted if the right steps are not taken. That’s why there’s no need to rush.

    The argument as to whether Liberia’s Founding Fathers and Mothers were racists has never ever been settled. The argument may never be settled. But I think they were racists without knowing they were. I have three reasons.

    1. Although all of our Founders were black and in some cases half white, the Founders always wanted to be known as Americo-Liberians, not Natives. Also, from 1847 when the Founders declared independence, no Native man or woman could run to become president because of the way in which the True Whig Party was set up. Not only did they descriminate against white people, the Founders descriminated against their fellow Africans.

    2. The Founders practiced racism because the much-talked-about clause in our constitution explicitly states that non-blacks are ineligible to become citizens of Liberia. Let’s call it what it is! Blatant racism devoid of ifs and buts. If it wasn’t racism during those days, it’s racism today. Times change!

    3. The Founders of Liberia practiced racism because no other group of humankind could dream of applying for Liberian citizenship except black people. The Chinese wouldn’t be allowed to try neither would the Hispanics who had absolutely nothing to do with black enslavement. Furthermore, the Indians of India (some of whom are darker than some Liberians) were ineligible to become citizens of Liberia. If that wasn’t racism, what’s the name of it? Xenophobia?

    I don’t care how people categorize themselves. The Natives and Americo-Liberians are bona fide Liberians. We can work together as one.

  8. No non black citizenship, period.we will go to every town and village to tell our people to refuse this bill as done in the previous referendum.

  9. Liberians will always be Liberians despite, war, famine or natural disaster. That should be a separate issue than considering qui puyu for citizenship.

  10. Why are these lawmakers not concentrating on fixing the current problems impeding Liberia’s economic progress before tackling long term economic and political impediments like dual-citizenship; giving Liberian citizenship to all race, and land rights to all race?

    Like the former foreign minister stated, “Don’t link the two issues (granting Liberians living in the Diaspora dual-citizenship and granting Non-Negroes Liberian Citizenship) into one bill. The constitutional ramifications for the two are not equivalent.

    However, to jump-start our struggling economy, these lawmakers should focus on: fighting corruption in all branches of government and the Liberian society:

    Reduce lawmakers’ excessive salaries; take away some of the imperial presidential power by electing county superintendents and big cities majors (decentralization of power); reduce the 1986 rigged constitutional provision of 6 years presidency; 9 years senatorial and 6 years representative years of service. These cuts will save the Liberian government much needed revenue for economic growth.

    For speedy economic growth these lawmakers should:

    Also, focus on massive Agriculture Programs: try new agriculture experiments by growing tea and cotton for mass production in conjunction with expanding Liberia’s cocoa, coffee, plantain, banana, rice, pine apple, cassava, etc. for foreign exports. Give small farmers loans to develop their crops. Establish cooperatives like they have for cocoa farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Cotton production is essential for the mass manufacturing of Liberia’s Unique Country Gowns (Apparels).

    Government should focus on massive physical infrastructure around the country that creates thousands of jobs: road/rail connectivity, building schools, clinics, hospitals, farmers’ market, government training centers and offices, electricity and pipe borne water around the country. This will attract more people to migrate from overpopulated Monrovia to the rural areas for jobs. Focus on upgrading dilapidated Monrovia infrastructure instead of building a new Monrovia City in a mangrove swamp (BALI) that is susceptible to flooding. However, in the long term, Liberia needs a new Capital City built in a strategic location not near the border (either in Bomi, Marshall, Sinoe or Grand Bassa County). Monrovia could be used as a financial capital.

    Focus on giving all parts of the country equal opportunity to develop like Monrovia:

    Government should focus on intellectual structure by creating an educated population: allow more money for education; recruit teachers/professors with the necessary experience from around the world (not only Nigeria) to assist the few teachers in Liberia (send Liberian teachers on exchange programs for training); make it mandatory for all Liberian scholarship recipients (receiving tax dollars) to teach for Liberia (giving back) after graduation for one year by giving them 50% of their salary for that year of teaching.

    Focus on establishing social security number to keep track of all those who worked in Liberia:

    Give each Liberian and all eligible Liberian residents a social security number. The purpose is for the government of Liberia to keep track of people who worked and paid taxes in Liberia, and those who qualified to receive social security benefits at retirement or disability.

    Focus on Social Service Programs for Liberians: provide low cost housing for the poor; food assistance programs for poor children; and create more jobs opportunities like street cleaning, beach cleaning (designated city waste dump sites for garbage burial and burning), drainage cleaning, river bed cleaning, this will also help the homeless to generate income.

    Focus on building more public restrooms: put sanitation dumps around the city; build public parks; relocate the dilapidated Antoinette Tubman Stadium and Rally Time Market. Their proximity to BTC (Barclay Training Center) makes the area too congested. That lot near BTC could be used as a city park; for public parking and for parking during celebration at BTC. Build more public playgrounds for traumatized Liberian children.

    Privatize the utility sectors with strong government regulations and open them (utilities) up for competition: this will generate needed revenue at the same time it brings down the current high cost due to government monopoly of public utility in Liberia.

    Focus on Maintaining the Peace and Stability of the country by creating equal opportunities for all Liberians to prosper.

    Last but not all: The issues of dual-citizenship, citizenship for all race, and land rights to all race could be done according to priorities and done separately as the former foreign minister Ms. King said. Liberia is a country with great potential to be great: but we have to use our gifts wisely.

    1st: focus on how to reconcile the many Liberians living in the Diaspora who are deprived of their voting rights because they don’t have dual-citizenship. Great potential for economic development by granting them dual citizenship. Our African brothers/sisters are taking advantage of Liberia “negro-only” citizenship law…they do not give up their citizenship when they acquired Liberian citizenship.

    2nd: Grant Liberian citizenship (regardless of race) to people who were born in Liberia;

    3rd: To boost our man-power: Grant limited citizenship to non-Negroes after this meets the public approval to professionals and highly skilled workers critically needed: doctors, people in the medical fields, engineers, scientists, university professors, financiers, professionals, those with special technical skills, pilots, Architects, and just to name a few.

    4th: Land rights should be based on a case by case: to those listed above (2 & 3) to become Liberian citizens: limiting the quantity of land to non-negro naturalized citizens and those of different race born in Liberia to purchase only 10 acres.

    These suggestions listed above are few ways Liberia can avoid being blatantly racist in this 21st century if we really want to move Liberia forward.

    May God Bless the Republic of Liberia as we strive to this glorious land “a wholesome functioning society” as the late President Richard Tolbert would say.

  11. George Weah and other Liberian politicians have been bought by the Lebanese, Indians, and Chinese.

    Unless Liberian Business ppl come together to counter the bribe. This bill is going to past. Say goodbye to Liberia. Hello to India, Lebanon, and China because more of these ppl will move to Liberia to take full advantage.

  12. This is a critical issue that requires critical analysis. We should not forget about South Africa and the apartheid or better still Zimbabwe.

  13. I think, it makes sense to start the conversation with the dual nationality case. And then, we can proceed later with the non- Negros case. Both issues are
    relevant but, categorizing both cases as a single bill, is a complete disservice to fellow Liberian diasporas, whom inherently have the same natural right as any other Liberians.

  14. Is Akerele not able to understand the implications of 85% of Liberians being unemployed since 1847 to 2017?

    Why is Akerele so DAFT?

    Does she not understand the economic and legal conundrum of Liberians and aliens not being involved in the formal sector instead of the informal sector?

    Does Akerele not appreciate why the Sirleaf government during her tenure fail by having 60% of their budget being exclusively donor aid instead of revenue generated locally from domestic taxable sources like Kenya and Ghana?

    https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/akerele-raises-red-flag-on-citizenship-amendment/

  15. The intent of the “negros clause” was not to be discriminatory, but rather protective.This clause should be called “Protective Clause.” It had done just that for over one hundred and seventy years. Libetia’s problem is not this protective clause but rather CORRUPTION in all levels of government mostly especially top level.

  16. Gray,
    Protective of whom?
    The non-blacks clause debate is good and healthy for our national consciousness. Approximately 200 years ago, European colonialism and imperialism was impractical but yet aggressive. During those rough years, Africans, Indians of Southeast Asia, Malaysians and others were European targets. So I understand if the new settlers were dubious about European encroachment on a tiny independent African state. But the enshrined non-blacks clause did not take into account others who might have wished to escape European colonialism and imperialism. For instance, the Indians were brutalized unmercifully by the British. Yet, Indians are not white! As you know mighty well, some Indians of Southeast Asia are darker than some Liberians. Given that scenario, one wonders whether discrimination was not in the details for everyone except black people. In other words, were the settlers of Liberia afraid of Indians, Malaysians and other oppressed people? It’s hard to determine what lurks in the hearts of men. But a sliva of racist tendencies was alive and well in the consciousness of the settlers. Maybe 1% of racism. Just maybe. Would you agree?

    If racism was not intended, why didn’t the settlers adapt a friendlier language? Or shall we assume that the settlers lacked a good frame of reference? What’s often forgotten is that the settlers didn’t do these things all by themselves. With an absolute degree of certainty, the American Colonization society was very actively involved in settling the new settlers. The settlers saw themselves as a distinct group of people. Not only did they selfishly become “protective” of themselves, they became xenophobic and downright racists unknowingly. Ironically, Native Liberians were descriminated against by the settlers “before and from” 1847 up to the 1980s.

    The above issue unfortunately opens up another can of worms. I wasn’t in Liberia when president Tolbert (my hero) was deposed in a bloody military coup. I do not support a forceable military takeover. In my lexicon, the rule law through demoncratic means is most ideal. In Weah’s government, Liberians of all backgrounds are being brought on board. That wasn’t the case in previous Americo-Liberian governments. There was hardly a Native Liberian in Tubman’s government. In the 1950s, a Boayue and a Dukule were brought in by Tubman. But their stint was short-lived. Let’s forget about previous Americo-Liberian governments of King and Barclay. Any attempt to mention Joseph Jenkins Roberts will be suicidal.

    In recent years, I am glad that Liberians of all backgrounds are coming together in a unique way. It’s in our best interest to do so. Trump does not care about the ethnic background of Liberians in America. If there is an undocumented Americo-Liberian, or a Native Liberian, she or he risks deportation by ICE. Liberians of all backgrounds have an obligation to promote Liberian patriotism. First and foremost, we have to come together as one.

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