By Rufus S. Berry II, MBA
Come January 2018 as President-elect of the Republic of Liberia, that person should be committed to using the bully pulpit of the Executive Mansion to lead a national discussion on the importance of dual-citizenship. Many of our brothers and sisters who have obtained foreign citizenships would hope that our lawmakers would immediately change the law to allow them to fully participate in our elections, and be legally regarded as full citizens of the republic.
As a matter of fact, in our “Mother Country” dual citizenship has been specifically sanctioned by the United States Supreme Court. In 1967, the court ruled that the State Department had violated the Constitution when it refused to issue a new U.S. passport to a U.S. citizen who had voted in an election in Israel. The decision overturned a law saying that “a person, who is a national of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voting in a political election in a foreign state.”
At the same token, The U.S. State Department discourages U.S. citizens from retaining or applying for citizenship in another country because “dual nationality may limit U.S. government efforts to assist nationals abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.” The department also warns that “dual citizenship can present a security issue whether to permit access to classified information which affects recruitment, employment and assignments.” In some cases, dual citizenship could disqualify an applicant for a sensitive position with the CIA or the State Department.
However; until the law is changed, the Republic of Liberia still does not recognize dual-citizenship (meaning, if your parents were/are Liberians and you were born at maternity center or any of the hospitals in Liberia), but traveled to the United States and took the Oath of Allegiance to become a naturalized citizen, you technically took the Oath and renounced and abjured absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign state, or sovereignty of which you were a citizen.
Therefore, all Liberians have a patriotic duty to report any non-Liberians seen registering to vote, and actively participating in our elections (those include Nigerians, Ghanaians, Guineans, etc. who obtained Liberian citizenships, but are still carrying the passports of their birth country). The government of the Republic of Liberia doesn’t have an authoritative tally of how many Naturalized Liberian citizens still possess the nationality of their country of birth.
Therefore, the National Elections Commission has the duty to protect our elections process from ‘Non-citizen Voting Fraud’ and to keep illegal foreign donations (money from anyone who isn’t a citizen of the Republic of Liberia) from getting into Liberia’s election campaigns.
After residing in the United States of America for over 28 years and working for some of the best companies in corporate and government finance, my strong ties to my ancestral land, my love and loyalty to my beloved Liberia (Our Mama Liberia, Our Sweet land of Liberty, Our Yama Yama Bad-Habit Land) has never, and will never be compromised.
In my opinion, I think the law should be changed to recognize dual citizenship. The primary objective to change the law is to ease the re-integration of Liberians returning particularly from the United States of America, and to help attract investors and top class talent to invest, live, and work in Liberia. However, until the current law is changed, noncitizens are prohibited from voting and/or actively participating in Liberia’s elections. Others (especially those who have resided in Liberia throughout the terrible days) may disagree and say that the complexities and complications raised by dual citizenship are not enough for our lawmakers to justify amending the Constitution, and as a result Liberian born citizens should think twice about professing allegiance to another country. Moreover, this reinforces the doubts that some of our brothers and sisters hold about the loyalty of dual citizens — many Liberians, for instance, fume when Liberian-Americans (US citizens either by birth or naturalization) are seen celebrating US holidays including: the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Labor Day.
I strongly believe that we all must ensure that our people (including those who obtained foreign citizenships – especially as a result of our senseless and bloody civil unrest) will have a voice in decisions that impact the rock upon which our civilization and country was built. Dual citizenship may have a place in our society, but the goal should be the cultivation of undivided Liberia, proud of their heritage and committed to this nation. Dual citizens should not run away after losing their lucrative and high paying government jobs, as evident with the record number of Liberians who have returned to the US. This brain drain has been extremely harmful to our beloved nation, especially with our limited pool of qualified individuals. It has long been estimated that for every skilled person who returns or stays in Liberia, nine new jobs are created in the formal and informal sectors.
With God above, Our rights to prove, We will o’er all prevail.