The Need to Review Dual Citizenship Laws

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Since the publication of our article on the issue of dual citizenship as part of the proposed amendments to the Constitution in the referendum that will be held sometime this year, we have received many reactions. Among the submissions, one stood out, because it brought forth a much simpler solution to the issue: laws governing the loss of Liberian citizenship is not in the Constitution, therefore should not be among the proposed amendments. It was an act passed into law by the William Tolbert administration in 1973. The reader who sent us the information begged to remain anonymous. The act was part of the new citizenship and naturalization law passed in 1973. Here is what it says:
Approved: May 15, 1973
Amendments Approved: May 9, 1974
Chapter 22. LOSS OF CITIZENSHIP
§ 22.1. Acts causing loss of citizenship.
§ 22.2. Citizenship lost solely from performance of act.
§ 22.3. Liberian woman marrying <>
§ 22.4. Certificate as to loss of Liberian citizenship.
§ 22.1. Acts causing loss of citizenship.

From and after the effective date of this title, a person who is a citizen of Liberia whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his citizenship by —
(a) Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application, upon the application of a duly authorized agent, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person; provided that citizenship shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person under the age of 21 years, unless such person shall fail to enter Liberia to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-third birthday; or
(b) Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof; or
(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.[70]

§ 22.2. Citizenship lost solely from performance of act.
The loss of citizenship under section 22.1 of this title shall result solely from the performance by a citizen of the acts or fulfillment of the conditions specified in such section, and without the institution by the Government of any proceedings to nullify or cancel such citizenship.
§ 22.3. Liberian woman marrying <>.
A Liberian woman who marries an <> retains her Liberian citizenship unless she renounces it by an affirmative act.[71] § 22.4. Certificate as to loss of Liberian citizenship.

Whenever a diplomatic or consular officer of Liberia has reason to believe that a person while in a foreign state to which such officer is assigned has lost his Liberian nationality under any provision of Section 22.1 of this title, he shall certify the facts upon which such belief is based to the Secretary of State in writing. If the report of such officer is approved by the Secretary of State, a copy of the certificate shall be forwarded to the Attorney General, for his information, and the diplomatic or consular office in which the report was made shall be directed to forward a copy of the certificate to the person to whom it relates.
§ 3. This Act shall take effect immediately upon publication in handbills.
Therefore, the issue of citizenship should not be among the constitutional amendments to be approved by the electorate. It will simply take the same procedure that brought it into being: an act of the legislature signed by the President or vice-versa.

We hope that this will take the debate at another level and that stakeholders will put their energies into a campaign to reverse a law that keeps many capable Liberian hands away from participating in nation building.

The waves of migration that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s put on the road of the exile the nascent educated middle-class.

Who will take the lead? The President or the Legislature? Or should the Supreme Court simply act on the act? The positive resolution of this issue would allow tens of thousands of Liberians to exercise their franchise and take part in the next elections. Their status in a foreign country must not deprive them of their native rights.

However, there is now a reminder that since the Act was passed into law, it becomes part of the Constitution and therefore must be dealt with as any part of the Constitution. Whichever it is, Liberia needs its great human power languishing in the diaspora. And people have no need their foreign passports when they return home.

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