Citizenship, Land Ownership for All Races, Says Weah

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President Weah believes the constitutional restrictions on citizenship and land ownership in Liberia are racist and ancient. (Photo by: Nick N. Seebeh)

By Robin Dopoe, Jr and Gloria T. Tamba

President George Weah has said his administration will propose changes to the Constitution to offer citizenship to people of non-Negro descent who have been denied such privilege since the founding of the country.

President Weah in his state of the Nation Address yesterday at the Capitol building said since the founding of the country in 1847, there have been restrictions on citizenship and property ownership that – in his view – have become serious impediments to the development and progress of the country.

“These restrictions include the limitation of citizenship only to black people, the limitation of property ownership exclusively to citizens, and the non-allowance of dual citizenship.

“The framers of the 1847 Constitution may have had every reason and justification to include these restrictions in that historic document. They, as freed slaves, were fleeing from the oppressive yoke of slavery imposed upon them by white slave owners. They therefore wanted Liberia to be a safe refuge and a haven for freed men of color, and so they restricted citizenship only to black people.

President Weah expressed his willingness to grant non-Negros citizenship through a referendum that will be submitted as an additional proposal to the seven accepted among the propositions that were submitted to the Constitution Review Committee last year.

According to the President, the restriction of land ownership exclusively to citizens in Article 22 (a) of the constitution impedes progress and stunt growth and development.

Article 27 (c) of the constitution said: “In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.”

The President said this nationality law is a contradiction to the definition of Liberia, which is derived from the Latin word “liber,” meaning “liberty.”

Meanwhile, another issue of concern to President Weah is the restriction placed in the constitution forbidding dual citizenship which, he said, should not be so in the 21st century.

On dual citizenship, President Weah said: “I believe that most Liberians who are also citizens of another country probably acquired the additional nationality as a means to escape from the terrible atrocities which characterized our civil conflict, and for economic survival in their new countries of residence.

“If, as a condition precedent for other countries to grant citizenship to these persons, they had to dis-avow their loyalty to Liberia and pledge allegiance to the laws of another country, then it could have been out of necessity, rather than a matter of the heart.

He added that natural born Liberians who have obtained citizenship elsewhere, were Liberians first, and he believes that they should be welcomed back home with open arms.

“Whether or not they are required to renounce their adopted nationalities should be a matter of their consciences and the laws which govern their naturalization in their respective domiciles. They should be free to make those choices and decisions,” President Weah noted.

President Weah however did not comment on public concerns about his dual nationalities which according to sources includes French and U.S. citizenship. Legal analysts however hold the view that President Weah’s previous acquisition of French citizenship and then U.S. citizenship in 2013 automatically annulled his rights to Liberian citizenship.

Legally speaking, according to analysts, President Weah’s tenure is illegitimate because he swore allegiance to the United States of America and has not since renounced his U.S. citizenship even though he took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of Liberia. Analysts recall for instance the case of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori who fled to Japan after being accused of involvement in corruption and human rights abuse.

While this situation may not necessarily obtain in the case of President Weah, according to a former legislator (name withheld), it only highlights the problems associated with dual citizenship particularly with regards to individuals desiring to contest political office. It must however be observed that this is not the first time that such an idea has been bandied about. It was more recently rejected in the 2005 national referendum. Moreover, the idea was discussed quite extensively but failed to make it to the 2011 national referendum.

Under Liberia’s alien and nationality laws, any person who is a citizen by birth or by naturalization shall lose his citizenship by  (a) Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application (b) Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof: (c) Exercising a free choice to enter or serve in the armed forces of a foreign state, unless, prior to such entry or service, such entry or service is specifically authorized by the President (d) Voting in a political election in a foreign state or voting in an election or plebiscite to determine the sovereignty of a foreign state over foreign territory; or (e) Making a formal renunciation of Liberian nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of Liberia in a foreign state in such form may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

Additionally, legal analysts maintain that President Weah’s wife, Clar Duncan Weah may have also been in violation of the law when she voted in the 2017 elections as there is no record anywhere showing that she applied for and was granted Liberian citizenship which would have conferred upon her the right to vote in Liberian elections.

Under Subchapter B Section 21.30 of Liberia’s Alien and Nationality laws “A woman of negro descent who marries a citizen of the Republic shall not become by virtue of such act of marriage a citizen of Liberia. Such woman may be naturalized if she is qualified in conformity with all of the provisions of section 21.1 of this title and complies with all the procedural requirements for naturalization set forth in this chapter.

As President Weah has stressed that the Constitution will be his principal guide for leadership and governance throughout his tenure as President, it remains to be seen how he is going to address issues about the constitutionality of his tenure or the legitimacy or relevance  of the country’s  Alien and Nationality laws.

Authors

27 COMMENTS

  1. At last someone has the gut to tackle the many flaws in Liberia’s 1986 antiquated constitution: the hazards and vicissitudes (the up and down) in our failing nation.

    Liberians frequently make developmental comparison to other well-developing African countries: only to find out that the pace of development in those countries far surpasses Liberia’s development.

    Countries, like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, South Africa, and just to name a few (after colonial rule) have amended their antiquated laws (immigration, citizenship, land rights, and business laws) in their constitutions to meet progressive development and national unity goals.

    Our racist law has long been an impediment to Liberia’s economic development coupled with poor governance, civil conflict and corruption that also contributed to Liberia poor economic development. We want business people to invest their hard-earned money and talent in Liberia, but we refuse to offer them the right to land ownership and Liberian citizenship. Liberian citizenship denial has led to capital flights from Liberia.

    Also, such xenophobic, racial segregationist, and protectionist ideologies over 170 years have deprived Liberia from creating a competitive free market economy: a free market which is good for attracting foreign businesses; good for attracting the bright and brightest to work and invest in Liberia if they could eventually become Liberian citizens.

    The more liberal non-racist immigration and dual citizenship policies we have in Liberia, the more free market competition coupled with the influx of talented people we will have in Liberia thus creating more private jobs opportunities; creating more research and development for more Liberians and their families to advance their capacities. This will also cut down on the over-dependency of scarce government jobs that lead to job-fights, nepotism, and cronyism taking place in Liberia.

    It is strange to note that the President focused mostly on the immigration aspect that impedes progress but he did not mention the need to reduce the self-serving and unwarranted extension in the 6 years Presidential; 9 years Senatorial, and 6 years representative terms in office that were embedded in the 1986 Constitution to satisfy PRC (People’s Redemption Council) members’ political aggrandizement.

    We welcome decentralization in Liberia but the “imperial presidency syndrome” will still continue to exist in Liberia if the respective counties are not given more autonomy in their economic development goals, and if superintendents and mayors are not elected by the people, for the people of their respective counties and cities.

    Finally, cutting the President’s salary by 25% is an exemplary beginning of leadership that is highly commendable. This is the type of progressive, lean management, and dynamic leadership that is urgently needed to move this slow turtle…Liberia……in the right direction toward rapid economic development.

    We are aware that due to delay in the legally contested election, your short transitional preparation of three weeks robbed you of the lengthy three months transitional period needed. However, Mr. President, you have the ball rolling. Please use all the legal and professional advice available because the Liberian people, the international community, and the free press are watching your CDC led government like a hawk.

    As one anonymous philosopher once said, “The prosperity of a people is proportionate to the number of hands and minds usefully employed.” Liberia is desperately in need of such economic prosperity.

    May God guide you, Mr. President, and your team as you steer this old sinking ship (Liberia) back to its rightful place among the comity of prosperous nations.

  2. THIS DUMB NATIVE A** GEORGE WEAH TALKING ABOUT CITIZENSHIP FOR ALL RACIST? IS THAT WHAT THIS IDIOT CAME TO POWER FOR OR TO DO FOR FOREIGNERS? HOW WILL FOREIGN CITIZENSHIP BENEFIT LIBERIANS? LOOK AT THE CARIBBEAN AND OTHER 3RD WOT=RLD COLOR NATIONS WHERE WHITES DOMINATE! LIBERIANS EVER TRAVEL-SEH? LIBERIANS STILL DON’T KNOW SH8T ABOUT THE WORLD TODAY! MOST “NEW LIBERIAN CITIZENS” UNDER THIS IDIOT WEAH, WILL BE LEBANESE, INDIANS, SYRIANS, AND OTHER ARABS AND PERHAPS CHINESE? DO LIBERIANS THINK AMERICANS, EUROPEANS WILL REALLY GRAVITATE TO LIBERIA FOR CITIZENSHIP? MOST OF THE “WHITES/ ARABS” ALREADY DOMINATE LIBERIA’S ECONOMY, BUSINESS COMMUNITY, AND ENTIRE SOCIAL LIVE! THEY OWN EVERY MAJOR THING IN LIBERIA NOW! WHAT DO THEY DO ALWAYS? CORRUPT OUR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS; SEND THEIR MONEY TO THEIR HOMELANDS; AND DON’T MARRY LIBERIAN MEN OR WOMEN! THEY CONSIDER LIBERIANS MONKEYS, BENETH THEM; DON’T HIRE LIBERIANS TO TOP POSITIONS IN THEIR BUSINESS (WHICH ARE MOSTLY FAMILY OWN); AND HAVE MASSES OF CHILDREN BY LIBERIANS WOMEN FOR PROPERTIES RIGHTS, WITHOUT SUPPORTING OR CARING FOR THEIR CHILDREN OR THE WOMEN WITH IMPUNITY! DOES STUPID NATIVES THINK LIBERIA IS SIMILAR TO AMERICA OR EUROPE OR WILL BE DEVELOPED AS SUCH WITH EQUALITY AND JUSTICE FOR LIBERIANS? VIEW THE WORLD FROM AN OBJECTIVE, AND NOT BLINDLY SELECTIVE VIEW, MY LIBERIAN PEOPLE! IN OTHER WORDS – GROW THE F%&K UP!

    • Brother you have a good point there. Is just that you don’t have to use any profanity on the President. Only Arabs and Lebanese will buy into that idea of African not just Liberian citizenship.

  3. BESIDES, THIS INTERNET EDUCATED PRESIDENT OF LIBERIA HAS NOT SHOWN US A DAMN THING HE’S CAPABLE OF DOING! NOW THIS IDIOT WANTS LEBANESE, INDIANS, SYRIANS, CHINESE IN LIBERIA RUN OUR GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES, SCHOOLS, AND AGENCIES! ARE NATIVE PEOPLE SO DAMN IGNORANT, LAZY, STUPID STILL THEY CANNOT LEAD LIBERIA HALF AS GOOD AS CONGAU/AMERICO PEOPLE!? YOU WILL NEVER HEAR US CONAGAUS GIVING OUR NEGRO NATION TO FOREIGNERS TO BUILD FOR US! ONLY DUMB, TRIBAL NATIVES HAVE SINCE BEFORE TIME! THAT IS WHY CONGAU PEOPLE KEEP NATIVES FROM LEADERSHIP ROLE! BIT**ES SELL EVERY DAMN THING THEY SEE, WANT TO BE SLAVES FOR “EASY LIFE” COMPARED TO VILLAGE LIFE; AND WILL DEFINITELY STILL SELL LIBERIA TODAY! ASK THAT IDIOT GEORGE WEAH!

  4. WHITE PEOPLE WHO LOVED LIBERIANS IN “AMERICAN’S DISMAL “ERA OF SLAVERY,” THAT STILL EXIST TODAY IN ITS “NEO-FORM,” PUT IN OUR CONSTITUTION THAT “WHITE PEOPLE” MUST NOT BE CITIZENS NOR OWN OUR LAND! THAT WAS AND IS STILL OUR PAY (“40 ACRES AND A MULE”) FOR ENSLAVING US! NATIVE A**ES DON’T KNOW SH8T ABOUT LIB PASR NOR RECENT HISTORIES! NOW THESE SAME NATIVES WANT TO “SELL BACK TO WHITE PEOPLE FOR FREE” WHAT “WHITE PEOPLR” PROTECTED IN OUR CONSTITUTION FOR US FROM WICKED RICH WHITE PEOPLE, TO THE SAME “WHITE PEOPLE!” DO LIBERIANS DESERVE THE “GRACE, LOVE, AND BLESSINGS OF JESUS CHRIST TODAY?” ONLY TH SHADOW KNOWS . . . .

  5. CITIZENS FOR EVERY RACE SOUNDS GOOD TO THE EARS, BUT IT IS FAIR TO THE LIBERIANS?RIGHT NOW THE LEBANESE OWNS THE LAND, THE FULA PEOPLE BUYING EVERY PROPERTIES THEY CAN GET THEIR HANDS ON, HOW MANY LIBERIANS CAN AFFORD TO BUY A PIECE OF LAND?LIBERIA IS FOR THE LIBERIANS THEY SHOULD BE GIVEN CHANCE TO OWN THEIR COUNTRY.I THINK WE SHOULD LET ALL THOSE WHO THINK LIBERIA IS ELEPHANT MEAT GO TO THEIR COUNTY AND LET THE LIBERIANS OWN THEIR LAND.THE LIBERIAN PEOPLE PUT YOU IN OFFICE BECAUSE THEY TRUST YOU AND NOW YOU WANT TO SELL THEIR LAND TO FOREIGNERS?AFTER THAT YOU GOING TO JUMP ON A PLANE WITH YOUR AMERICAN PASSPORT AND COME BACK TO AMERICA. PLEASE MY BROTHER TO MAKE IT WORST FOR US.WE NEED TO GIVE OUR PEOPLE WHAT THEY DESERVE.

  6. Liberia is not a big country, so if you allow foreigners to own land it will become a problem. If the foreigner wants to own land, let him/her become naturalized. It brings development, but do not sell land to uncommitted people. Money is plenty in other places and it will be easy for someone to buy the entire Monrovia (literally). Poor people will not be able to own land soon.

  7. Dual citizenship for born and naturalized Liberians? YES. Citizen for non-negro? YES. Land ownership for non-negros? NO. We shouldn’t give them everything. As our brothers said, Liberia is small. There won’t be enough land even for the non-Negro descendents if law allowed them land ownership. Land grabbing would be so fierce our people will be squeezed out. Think twice!

    • Noone is giving anything away. If you don’t open up the land for development and ownership to those who can afford it, the land is worthless. There is much land for all but to urge this stalemate to continue stifles growth and development.

  8. Land ownership continues to be problematic among our tribal people. I propose that government creates an enabling environment and provides assistance to agricultural graduates and others interested in farming. The Development Bank instead of giving financial assistance to foreigners to open stores, priority should be given to Liberians who are interested in farming. Cameroun for example, gives 75% of their development loans for agricultural and rural development. Look how the skyline of Sinkor is changing as compared to little or no rural or agricultural development. Further, when Liberians begin to farm, a ban should be imposed on the importation of agricultural goods: poultry and poultry parts, piggery and pigs parts, vegetables, with emphasis on peppers, etc. I am convinced that we can feed ourselves. Mr. President, I encourage you and your VP to take lead, and lead by example. You have started with cutting your salary and benefits by 25%. THANK YOU YAH!

  9. Friends, since our sojourn in the USA. I have made a backyard garden. Even for those years when I took a leave of absence to return home, my son did not relent, he worked the backyard, planting peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables. Giving adequate resources, I am certain the MOA can take the lead in encouraging our people to GO BACK TO THE SOIL! Growing-up, nearly everybody had a backyard garden. Let the members of the Legislature and Officials of government follow the lead of the President and VP. THE SOIL IS A BANK. INVEST IN IT!

  10. The land issue is very complicated and can be made simple by law being put into place to governed it. The idea of selling land to non Liberian is wrong. If you are interested in buying land in Liberia be a Liberian. Liberia is a paradise by birth but many are blind to this blessing. When we invest in our land,soon we will realized the beauty of ownership. Why should Liberian import hot/sweet papers, okra,bitter-ball,beans,tomatoes, & rice to Liberia? That’s because we have gotten very lazy to work our land of paradise. God has blessed Liberia with all she ever wanted to sustain herself but her very children are been foolish and trying to sell her away. My fellow Liberians, all you need to do is to drop a seed and it will grow to feed you. Let us priorities agriculture and the land issue will be resolved because the land will be used to feed the very people trying to sell it. These very Lebanese and Fulani will not even allow us Liberians to mingle with their daughters & sons,now you think about owning a land in Lebanon. By the way, only Liberians can developed Liberia so we can develop Liberia if we put her first. Let us put that notion away that,by selling the land,it will bring development. No one will develop Liberia except Liberians. This is the time and we need to make it happened.

  11. Look, what we need is an intersection because life is about risks. What are countries that provide Liberians and or Africans citizenship? What are their conditions and other variables? What President George M. Weah stated was a forecasted proposal and it must be up to us to deliberate where we are heading. We already comprehend what is occurring when dealing with our existing situation. Liberians love money like any other thinking man but we use money to destroy ourselves. So how do we extend this human relationship that has a historical condition through slavery and now in fresh terms? The Arabs came in with force and introduced Islamism and the white came in with power as well and later Christianism, allowing us to exercise those conditions that separate us. Most of us are citizens in other white countries and regardless of what we have learned and schools we attend, it is never equal. Therefore, if they want citizenship, there are underlining intends; off course our resources to sustain their lifestyles in those countries as well as ours. We must be rational enough to provide them with conditions not like what we continue to do with the rubber plantation and coco cola business. They are currently participating in our country. Those conditions must be equivalent in balancing our trade agreements. The growth and development of our country, participatory role in their political and economic environment, equilibrium in employment and salaries in those countries, mechanical and technical equilibrium, forensic test to all conditions and more.

  12. oh my people of Liberia to give people of this world citizenship is good but to let people of this world to own the land is not good why because Liberia is too small if it happen there will be no Liberian people in Liberia.take it from me I am an apostle

  13. RODNEY, RODNEY…

    You seem like an idiot and it shows! You are projecting an elevated level of anxiety right now. You are perseverating and projecting latent or discrete ideations that are disconforming…Step away, calm down, take your time to type and use spell check, before you begin to spew venom against a newly elected and sworn in president. President George Weah is president of Liberia duly elected in a landslide election by the people of Liberia. Remember he will be at the helm of our great nation (our biological heritage) for 6-12 years if he so chooses.

    Mr. Chesson, you are disparaging someone who has an undergraduate and a graduate degree. Seemingly, you are not demonstrating congeniality with an adept fund of knowledge. Granted foreigners becoming citizens and land owners in Liberia could prove detrimental or deleterious to those citizens with little or no buying power; you could have expressed yourself more eloquently. Wake-up Mr. Chesson, it is the breaking of a new dawn in this proud nation with great heritage; and one whose attributions has stood and will continue to stand the test of time.

    I look forward to when your emoting becomes more rational and positive.

    Dr. C. DarkaShade

  14. Chesson
    I warned your mouth last year about your obsession with the natives of Liberia. It’s one thing to dislike a particular person for reasons unknown. But to disparage a whole body of people (the natives of Liberia) without cause is disingenuous on your part. Let it be known to you that your freedom of speech will suffer if you do not desist from shouting profanities at the natives of Liberia. Yours is a losing battle. The natives of Liberia are in the majority. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

    You’re a native of Liberia irrespective of how you roll the dice. Why? Because you were born in Liberia. Any Liberian who was born in Liberia is a Liberian. It’s true that you identify with the Americo-Liberian ethnicity. Okay, that’s not a criminal issue. But your verbal assault on the Liberian majority is equivalent to a cultural warfare. Be reminded that your assault and insult are unacceptable. Lastly, you are not superior to the natives of Liberia. It definitely shows. You are not behaving as a person who is intelligent or superior to anyone.

    Chesson, it’s a proposal that’s been put out there by the president, Mr. Weah. It’ll be the responsibility of the country’s lawmakers to debate the citizenship proposal. If you are convinced that Liberian citizenship should not be extended to non-blacks, tell your representative or senator to vote against the measure when it comes up in the Lower House.
    Liberians of all backgrounds must work together in order to make the country great.

  15. What is the definition of “Negro Descent” ?

    Lets say a Liberian (“Negro”?) man has a child with a white woman, their child will invariably be mulato / ½ caste / light skinned, but it is still of “Negro Descent” (from its “negro” father). Right ?!

    And if, say, it’s a boy child (who then grows into man), and he then also has a child with a white woman, then his child too is also very obviously of “Negro Descent” (from his father & grandfather), but that child is now an even lighter skin colour than its father, and a very much lighter skin colour than its “negro” grandfather.

    And let’s say that that child is also a boy child (who grows into a man) and he repeats the process, i.e. to have a child with yet another white woman. That baby is, yet again, a lighter skin colour than its father, or grandfather, or its “negro” great-grandfather.

    And let’s allow that breeding cycle to keep on repeating and eventually the process goes so far that, for all intents and purposes, the subsequent children end up looking white / caucasian, which they will do.

    However, if any of those children look back through their family-tree, at what point would these children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, etc.) find that they ceased to be of “Negro Descent” and against what criteria is that being made?… a child’s skin colour? or their external features? or their DNA ?

    So I repeat the question: What is the definition of “Negro descent” ?

  16. Layfield, I will not swagger as I answer the question you’ve thrown out here. There aren’t easy answers. Your question has many answers. But, I will try. In my humble opinion, a negro descent is a person whose biological father and mother are black, or a person whose biological father or mother is either white or black or black and non-white. Because of the advancement of technology, a person’s genealogy can be traced to as many generations as possible. If a white person’s DNA determines that she or he descended from a black person, that could be true. But she or he could be a white or a non-white or a non-black.

    A couple of years ago, I met a white lady in DC, who told me that she’s 1/3 black. She was very beautiful and blond-haired. I asked her how was it possible that she could consider herself somehow black. Said she, “my grand father was half white and black. My grandpa married a white woman and my mom married a white man”. Finally she said to me, “there are a lot of white people who are like that”. Our topic began with Trump. She voted against Trump. That’s how our dialogue began. In reality, my friend is of negro descent, but she is not black. She claims black heritage, but she is white.

    The case in Liberia is interesting. First and foremost, I agree that our constitution needs to be revised, amended and abrogated. The debate must resume. Let’s hear how the legislators will respond.

  17. There are people from the subcontinent who are dark or darker than an average black person. Although they’re very dark, they dislike being labeled as black. Is it a curse to be black?

    There is a black tribe that lives in India. These black people are known as “Siddi”. I wish any reader of my commentary could goggle the “Siddi tribe” of India and Pakistan.
    To historicize their origin, the Siddis entered the subcontinent around 600 AD. They are Bantus who left Southern Africa over a thousand years ago as merchants, seafarers and business people.

    I asked earlier whether it is a curse to be black. The present day Indians are unwilling to say anything good about the Siddis of India. Some Indians will say that the Siddis were taken to India as slaves. But by whom? Not by Indian enslavers! My point is simple. Anytime the history of blacks come up, the dreaded word “slaves” will follow. Black conquests are non-existent because history writers want to demean black people always.

    As Liberia debates the critical issue of granting citizenship to everyone, I suspect that Indians and Lebanese will form lines to obtain application forms for Liberian citizenship before any group of non-blacks! But the sad truth is that black people are not welcome in India and Lebanese.
    To grant citizenship, the best thing that should be done is to go one step at a time. In other words, the granting of a citizenship shouldn’t be an overnight deal. There should be a process.

    When anyone applies for citizenship, she or he should be granted a 10-year Residency document. After ten years of being a Liberian Resident, an application for citizenship should be applied for. Lastly, a non-black who is granted a Liberian citizenship should not buy a body of land for ownership that exceeds 20 acres. If there aren’t stiff stipulations, the non-blacks will buy all of our land. Of course, we must keep In mind that some of our fellow compatriots are mopes and wusses. They will sell their land and their children for dimes and nickles.

    The debate continues!

  18. The word should be Lebanon.
    Not Lebanese. See the fourth paragraph.
    My phone acts stupidly. I type a word, and my stupid phone thinks I am wrong!
    I will kill this phone tonight.

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