One of the strongest proponents and probably the largest group that could benefit from dual citizenship, Union of the Liberian Association in the Americans (ULAA) has weighed in on the ongoing debate, noting that dual citizenship for natural born Liberians and does not include “opening up citizenship to non-Negroes as proposed by President George Manneh Weah.
According to the Board Chairman of ULAA, George Toto, the organization’s long struggle for dual citizenship is in no way meant to invalidate or violate the constitution, but to work in the confines of the Alien and Nationality law.
“Our calls are not to grant this right to non-negroes because that is a constitutional issue but we are advocating for natural born Liberians who lost their right after taking up citizenships in other countries,” Mr. Toto said in a press conference at the Capitol Building on Tuesday.
He noted that the bill emanating from the office of Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Sherman is in line with the ULAA’s quest.
However, this clarity from the ULAA chairman is necessary because of an apparent attempt by some members of the Liberian legislature to combine dual citizenship and citizenship to people of non-negro descents.
It may be recalled that President Weah termed the Liberian constitution as “racist” while calling for the removal of that “racist” clause which restricts citizenship to black people only at his first State of the Nation address in January.
Many Liberians have called on the president not to support “what appears to be a new proposal coming out of a House of Representatives committee to combine Dual Citizenship for natural born Liberians with citizenship for all races.”
Mr. Toto has commended the enactment of the Dual Citizenship Bill that is currently before members of the Liberian Senate and hoped the senators will see the need to pass the bill.
“We aren’t talking about non-negroes. We are talking about natural born Liberians. We are advocating for this Bill to pass and we will go into villages and towns to inform our people about the importance of this Bill and why it should be passed,” Toto said.
Recently, a group known as the All-Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship, which represents over 500,000 Liberians in the Diaspora, wrote President Weah indicating that dual citizenship for natural born Liberians, does not involve “opening up citizenship to non-Negroes.”
The group comprises ULAA, The European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA), The Federation of Liberian Communities in Australia (FOLICA), Conference of Liberian Organizations in the South Western United States (COLOSUS), and United Liberian Association Ghana (ULAG).
In a letter to President Weah, the group said the two issues should not be combined because combining these parallel and entirely different propositions as one item in a referendum will pose a significant challenge if not destroy its efforts for dual citizenship for natural born Liberians.
“We need to immediately bring to your attention that these issues should be addressed separately in any future legislative action or referendum,” the group said in its letter to the president.
It may also be recalled that a report on Dual Citizenship from the Senate’s Committee on Judiciary was introduced by Senator Varney Sherman.
The Senators will be providing different opinions on calls by President George Weah to revisit laws on citizenship, property ownership, and the one that forbids people of non-Negro descent citizens of Liberia.
In a nine-page document read in the plenary of the Liberian Senate, Senator Sherman argued that there is a need for change in the 1986 Constitution, especially the portion that prohibits dual citizenship.
He believes the state’s economy will expand if dual citizenship is accepted. “Liberians who left the country during the bitter civil wars and have taken citizenships in other countries for social and economic protection should be allowed to regain their Liberian citizenship under this new law,” he said.
But this was immediately rebuffed by Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County who said that Liberia does not need dual citizenship to improve its health and education sectors.
Senator Johnson called on President Weah to focus on immediate things that will move the country forward.
Last month, members of the House of Representatives agreed to add one week to their traditional two-week Easter Break to have a face-to-face with their respective constituents about the ‘controversial’ Dual Citizenship and Landownership Bills.
The constituents’ meeting was intended to enable lawmakers to make an informed decision on the issue since it has become a subject of intense public interest in which some of the people have already raised concerns about granting citizenship to non-Negroes. But whatever the case on the dual citizenship issue may be, in the final analysis, it will be decided by the people expressed in a constitutional referendum.