Emmanuel S. Wettee, chairman of the All Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship (ALCDC) in the Americas, has frowned on the “lip service” with which leaders treat the issue of dual citizenship in the country.
Wettee says the country’s past and current leadership has not been sincere in their push for dual citizenship.
He made these comments when he served as a keynote speaker at a ceremony in commemoration of Liberia’s 172nd Independence anniversary, which the Liberian Association of Wisconsin in the U.S. recently organized.
Though Mr. Wettee was asked to speak on the topic, “Dual Citizenship for Liberians Living Abroad: The Challenges, Advantages and Way Forward to the Future,” he spoke on the theme, “Dual Citizenship for Liberians: The Challenges, Advantages and Way Forward to the Future.”
Dual citizenship comes with enormous dividends and, according to Wettee, the sooner the country’s leadership realizes this, the better it would be for its citizenry.
“One of our challenges is the unwillingness of our political leaders, who support dual citizenship to transfer their oral support to using their vast political and financial ways and means to advocate for dual citizenship,” he said.
Dual Citizenship, Mr. Wettee added, will replace brain drain with brain gain, because it is supposed to help develop the middle-class in Liberia.
According to him, it will also enable Diaspora Liberians to return home and provide identical or similar services that some Liberians seek outside the country.
Wettee recalled how for 10 years former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf “verbally advocated for dual citizenship, but failed to use her political will and enormous power and influence to effect the necessary laws.”
“President George Weah, like Madam Sirleaf, has verbally advocated for dual citizenship, and unlike President Sirleaf, he has gone a step further by making dual citizenship as one of his legislative items. However, he has taken no action thus far,” he said.
Sadly, Mr. Wettee said that those with the means are purchasing land, using Trust Funds to protect the future of their children, who have different nationalities, and not helping to change the law.
According to Liberia’s 1974 Aliens and Nationality Laws at the time of birth, the rights to citizenship only descend to a child by way of their father, and not their mother—a move the speaker sees as discriminating against females.
“It is sad that a natural born Liberian, who migrated to another country and naturalized, is no longer considered a Liberian, and the same applies to their children,” he said.
The constitution also states that only a Liberian can own land, any land owned by a Liberian before naturalization is no longer for them after nationalization. Also, their children born outside of Liberia, who are citizens of another country, cannot take ownership of the land.
The changing of the laws to allow dual citizenship will help address many of the developmental shortfalls that the country currently experiences. “Just like Ghana and Nigeria, dual citizenship will provide the legal safety net for Liberians in the Diaspora with the needed skills to return home, and help in the planning, development and support of building medical facilities, road networks, and universities across the country, and providing job opportunities for the people,” Mr. Wettee said.
He added that Liberians abroad and with the means can also buil, and revitalize the country’s tourism industry so Liberians can take vacations in various parts of the country to help support local businesses.
Wettee expressed excitement that the topic of Dual Citizenship for Liberia is now a national agenda item, “Therefore, one day in the future, it will become a law.”
He added, “Our advocacy is for natural born Liberians and those born of Liberian parentage. We are also advocating for restrictive dual citizenship, meaning anyone holding dual citizenship will be restricted from certain positions like president, vice president or contesting for elected positions.”
Mr. Wettee provided an update on the status of their quest for dual citizenship in Liberia under the sponsorship of the ALCDC, which is representing over 500,000 Liberians in the Diaspora and sponsored a dual citizenship bill in the Senate in April, 2018 through Senator Varney G. Sherman.
However, he said a vote on the bill is expected in the near future, but recalled that President Weah listed Dual Citizenship as a legislative item during his 2019 state of the nation’s address.
Wettee expressed the hope that the Supreme Court of Liberia will in the near future make a decision on a case heard in March, 2017, challenging the constitutionality of the “1974 Alien and Nationality Law.”
ALCDC membership comprises of 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), United Liberian Association in Ghana (ULAG), and Coalition of Concerned Liberians (CCL)).