Why Is Dual Citizenship So Much a Problem?

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Since the first phase of the work of the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) was completed and submitted to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for review and subsequent submission to the National Legislature for argument and adoption for a referendum, the issue of allowing Dual Citizenship in Liberia has remained a point of discussion.

They objected to it because they felt two citizenships would bring about conflict of interest, referencing to some Liberian-Americans who come here by invitation of the government to work but engage in corrupt practices and then return to the United States with impunity.

The disadvantaged Liberians with a single citizenship also said Liberians in the Diaspora will use dual citizenship to come to Liberia, grab and go to their favorite home (America and Europe) to live a better life and leave Liberia in poverty and hunger.

When the report was submitted to President Sirleaf this year, she inserted and submitted to the Legislature the need to allow dual citizenship in the Liberian Constitution.

In the wake of the President’s proposal, Liberians in the Diaspora have risen up to strongly advocate for the acceptance of dual citizens in the country, the current group being the Liberian Advocacy for Change.

The puzzling questions now are: why are Liberians in the Diaspora so worried about objection to dual citizenship? Has the existence of a single citizenship been a hindrance to their statuses as Liberians living in the United States or other parts of the world?

We know that when you want a job in Liberia, especially in government, Liberians with dual citizenship will have to renounce the other citizenship.

Is this process so difficult to do for which acceptance of dual citizenship is a matter of advocacy? If yes, what are the difficulties and disadvantages that you can set to convince those objecting to the adoption of dual citizenship in Liberia?

As the situation stands, the absence of dual citizenship in the Liberian Constitution should mean nothing to Liberians in the Diaspora because it is just a cosmetic writing without any effect on anyone.

One argument raised by the Liberian Advocacy for Change is that Liberians living in other countries, including the United States want to return to open businesses and change the future of the country. What hindrance is a single citizenship causing any of them in pursuit of this venture? Lebanese, Indians, Fulanis and others have businesses here running while Chinese, Nigerians and Ghanaians are in the deepest parts of Liberian forests mining minerals and sand, as well as fishing. Can a Liberian living in the Diaspora be tied to dual citizenship if he/she wants to establish a business in this country? What instance can be cited as evidence in this regard?

In fact, there are many Liberians in government and the private sector today making whatever contributions they have to make. Do these instances in any way suggest that Liberians in the Diaspora are not accepted to be citizens of Liberia?

While I am not opposed to dual citizenship if it becomes the will of the Liberian people, those pushing for its adoption in the constitution should be realistic to state the constraints they face as a result of its non-existence.

For ordinary Liberians perpetually living here, they are of the view that accepting dual citizenship would lead many Liberians in the Diaspora to come to the country to steal money and go back to America where the Liberian Government may not be able to get them back for prosecution, because of their American citizenship.

The case in point now is the Ellen Corkrum saga, which the government is unable to pursue because of her American citizenship. Although she made some revelations that Liberians are anxious to see her present in court with evidence, they also fear that her alleged embezzlement of huge amount of money to escape to America is a major advantage for people advocating for dual citizenship.

If Liberians can truly believe that dual citizenship has benefits for the country, advocates have to prove it beyond all reasonable doubt to convince citizens not only in words but in deeds. Until this is done, the Liberian Advocacy for Change should advocate for visa relaxation instead of dual citizenship. That could suffice for now.

About the Author: Joaquin M. Sendolo is a Liberian with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and pursuing another in Mass Communication at the University of Liberia. He has 10 years of experience as a practicing Journalist and has covered key international events including those of the African Development Bank, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African leaders and the US-Africa Leaders Summit.
Joaquin M. Sendolo can be contacted on 231-886 838535/231 777463853. Email: [email protected]

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