One hundred and sixty seven years ago, Liberia declared independence as the First African Republic and by so doing, gave birth to the land we call our Home.
The framers of our constitution established a system of government which is a replica of the United States’ constitution; the place where the founders of Liberia were uprooted from Africa and transplanted. The constitution was to serve as a pedestal of a new nation. The architect of that constitution intentionally enshrined a certain clause under Article 27B of the Citizenship and Naturalization Section: which states “only individuals of negro descent can become citizens of Liberia.” In my view, this protective clause was done in order to safeguard the infant nation from the manacles of the imperialists, which circumscribed us at that time, of which I totally agree. Arguably, this restriction was appropriate then; one should also agree it has outlived its long validity and relevance in these days and times.
Nations which were regarded as segregated, of which we could give so many examples, have now racially integrated populations and engaged in the process of amalgamation. What more about a Country which has always been a relatively liberal and circular society? This clause already mentioned in our constitution is not only out rightly obsolete, but is also inimical to the developmental process of a country, which is trying to exhaust every means for economic resuscitation and reconstruction. Liberia is badly in need of infrastructural development and emerging from nearly two decades of bloody civil crisis, resulting into the wholesale destruction of socio-economic and political fabric, we need to open up to a world so compressed that we are now next door neighbors. This will enhance the unevenness and disparities, caused by political upheavals, tribalism and wars.
Most naturally, the question comes to mind: why then should we maintain the status quo? Xenophobia, of course cannot be the right answer, because aliens have been literally involved in every sector of our society. They have contributed immensely in the areas of health delivery, education, religion, trade and industry, just to name a few. Some of them have even married Liberian citizens and established families here. But one important thing worth noting is that, throughout the ups-and-downs in the course of the national existence, some of them have existed with us as friends, teachers, doctors, business partners, neighbors, etc. We should consider them as fellow compatriots working together in a beautiful symphony of development to stimulate an epoch of development and prosperity, which will reverberate in every hamlet, village and town across our common patrimony. Our developmental agenda is mammoth and we cannot do it all by ourselves. It is a Liberian saying that, one finger does not pick lice, so we need all persons of substance to join hands with us in the herculean task of development and reconstruction. Even though people of black or Negro, etc. descent are coming into our country, we need quality and a quota system for immigration.
For example, while the world is changing at the speed of light, Providence Island remains the same since 1847. Someone might be quick to ask: why can’t we do it now? It can be done now by people who have foresight and vision for the future. What economic sense does it make if one is allowed to acquire wealth in a particular country and yet be barred from developing that country, because he cannot become a member of the body politics? For him, the country will be only a tunnel or conduit from which he will channel all his time, energy, efforts and money to. Also, they will transfer what they gain from Liberia to their own countries because of this clause of segregated oneness. This clause has only encouraged capital flight which is detrimental to any effort resuscitate our ailing economy. One just has to ask, where do all the dollars go?
As a lover of nature, I sometime travel to some areas of our country’s most magnificent sites, like Lake Piso in Grand Cape Mount County; Edina in Grand Bassa; Marshall City in Margibi County; the St. Paul River basin and other attractive breathtaking natural areas, to gaze at their elegance and while enthralled by them, I wonder why these natural magnificent scenes remain unimproved across the years; and why we have ocean, rivers, lakes and streams and yet we lack adequate safe drinking water; and why we have fertile land and heavy rainfall and cannot feed ourselves with cassava, one of the staples of our country.
In conclusion, I call upon the Commissioner of the Constitutional Review Committee, Cllr. Gloria Scott and the men of foresight and vision to revisit this citizen clause in our constitution and look to the future with hope and trust and by putting in place the necessary laws.
I would like to recommend and petition that this Government set up a Citizenship Commission, charged with whatever it takes to revisit and repeal Article 27B, regarding Citizenship and Naturalization in our constitution. If we must expand and realize our tremendous untapped God-given resources to develop, and develop we must, it is time that we consider others who have the technology know how, in line with our national manpower projection needs to become a part of our body politics within the rule of law working for the common good. Let other become citizens of Liberia!