By: Bai M. Gbala Sr.
The just-ended, ULAA-sponsored, Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference was a gathering of a relative handful of our fellow citizens, some of who are naturalized citizens of foreign countries and, therefore, dual citizens, a violation of our constitutional and statutory laws on dual citizenship; while others are permanent residents and applicants for naturalized citizenships of the US and other countries.
Caught in the claws of existing Liberian Laws, our fellow compatriots now seek a reasonably, persuasive argument to amend the existing, constitutional provisions, amend and/or repeal the Alien & Nationality Law and the adoption of Dual Citizenship in Liberia, although there is a dual citizenship bill now pending in the Liberian Senate for the past 2-3 years, sponsored by senior senators, rumored to be dual citizens.
The ULAA-led organizers sought, secured the support and involvement of the Liberian Government through the Liberian Ambassador, the accredited representative of the Liberian government and people to the USA, for cooperation with the planners of the Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference. According to Mr. Emmanuel Wettee, ULAA Chairman on Dual Citizenship & Chairman of the Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference, “. . . ULAA . . . in collaboration with the Embassy of Liberia in Washington, D. C., is organizing the two-day conference . . .” This “collaboration” or alliance could present a sticky problem for President Sirleaf, because her son, Mr. Robert Sirleaf, Senior Advisor to the President and Board Chairman of Liberia’s National Oil Company (NOCAL), has been accused of being a dual citizen of Liberia and the United States, a violation of Article 28 of the Liberian Constitution and related, statutory law on dual citizenship.
The history of citizenship is a description of the changing relationships (or contracts) between the individual, the citizen, and a political community, the nation-state, with particular respect to governing conditions – legal rights, obligations and responsibilities of the citizen to the nation-state, and of the nation-state to the citizen. This mode of relationship, according to recorded history, dates from the days of the political thinkers (Plato, Aristotle) of ancient, Greek city-states, through middle ages to our modern, contemporary times, influenced, primarily, by human reason and the evolution in ideas (the French and US Revolutions, etc.). Fundamentally, citizenship is defined by and based on “Love-of-country” – loyalty, allegiance and patriotism, and other, related, lawful obligations of the citizen to the state, and the state to the citizen. These obligations include such services (civil disasters and military conflicts, socio-economic, political and security) that are so very important that they constitute major components of the curriculum for the study of Civics, the course of study designed to impart and instill into the minds of young citizens the critical, lawful and moral obligations of citizen to the state and the state to the citizen; notions of loyalty, allegiance and patriotism; socio-cultural principles and values; and the sense of national belonging, individual/collective, national identity, unity and security.
Dual citizenship is not new to Liberia and Liberians. Characterized by political infidelity to the Liberian nation, dual citizenship has been in practice (public/private dishonesty or corruption) in Liberia since the days of founding of the nation by freed slaves in 1847. Almost all Liberian government officials, their families and related, socio-economic classes were, and some, today, are dual citizens, especially, of developed countries, with the United States at the top of the preferred countries (Toteh, 2012). Fabulous incomes generated in Liberia through dishonest or corrupt practices from Liberia’s politics and economics (the nation’s peculiar, controlled Political Economy) were and are being transferred out of Liberia to buy homes, maintain families and educate children in foreign countries, the simultaneous, second home-countries of these Liberian citizens; they travel, very often, to and from these countries to which they owe exclusive allegiance, loyalty and patriotism, and in which they hold and maintain bank accounts.
Alien & Nationality Law
Apparently, until 1956 or more than a century (109 years) after declaration of political independence as a Republic (1847), there was no written law in Liberia for or against dual citizenship. As has been the case, almost, all of our laws, indeed, the 1956, Liberian, Alien & Nationality Law was borrowed from and modeled on the US, 1952 Law of similar title. This law was enacted not only because of Liberian, political/national infidelity and rampant dishonesty that gave rise to the nation’s continuous (up to this day), socio-economic and political under-development, but also because almost all other nations, including the United States, have adopted such legal conventions designed to protect and preserve the vital interests of the nation and its citizens. However, noting hypocrisy, disobedience and blatant violations of the new law, mainly, by prominent personalities and officials of the Liberian government, some of who were dual citizens, the 1956 law was amended and approved in 1973 to its present form, in order to provide specificity and diligent enforcement. After the 1980 Event, the 1986 Constitution followed with Article 28, reinforcing earlier prohibition against dual citizenship.
The Argument for Dual Citizenship in Liberia
On behalf of the ULAA-sponsored and led Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference, Dr. George Klay Kieh presented the “Case for adoption of Dual Citizenship in Liberia”. In his presentation, Dr. Kieh argued for dual citizenship, basically and essentially, as the several proponents before him (especially, Mr. Abraham Massaley), that dual citizenship will benefit Liberia, particularly, in its current task of post-conflict reconstruction for social, economic and political development, because it (dual citizenship) will permit Liberian, dual citizens in the Diaspora, with the requisite training and experience, to return to Liberia and contribute to the reconstruction and developmental effort.
Along this line of argument, Dr. Kieh held that dual citizenship will benefit the country (Liberia) in social, economic and political development. Specifically, he says that:
The “anti-dual citizenship perspective” on “the conception of citizenship” that “an individual may can (may) only be a citizen of a single country at a time is absolutist, Byzantine or archaic and outdated”; therefore, “several countries – Australia, Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Israel, The United Kingdom and the United States – have liberalized their citizenship requirements, so that dual citizenship can be accepted. Similarly, in the case of Africa, several countries . . . do recognize dual citizenship”.
The political economy of Liberia provided and was the basic reasons for some Liberians to migrate to other countries and acquire naturalized citizenships, because:
The state failed to provide human security and safety;
The state failed to provide human needs and economic opportunities; and
“Hamstrung by the lack of economic opportunities and threatened by physical insecurity, these Liberians had to do what were best for them”.
The adoption of dual citizenship in Liberia “will benefit the country in various, major ways . . . social, economic development . . . Clearly, Liberians in the Diaspora . . . constitute the kernel of the country’s skill pool . . . Dual citizenship would enable them to bring their expertise . . . in helping Liberia to address the conundrums of democracy and development”.
Dual citizenship should or will, also, benefit:
a) Those Liberians who left Liberia and became naturalized citizens of other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North & South America, the Pacific and Australia;
b) Others who were born outside Liberia to a parent or parents, who are currently citizens of Liberia, as well as those (parent or parents) who were born in Liberia, but have become citizens of other countries; and
C) That naturalization requirements for dual citizenship be liberalized to include African Americans, who are of African heritage, to hold dual citizenship – their current ones and Liberian citizenship.
Mr. Abraham Massaley, one of the major speakers at the conference, wrote (Dual Citizenship Shock & Awe. . . December 19, 2012) that “Dual citizenship is about expanding opportunities abroad for native (indigenous) citizens”. These “opportunities”, according to Mr. Massaley, “limited in Liberia”, include investments, real estate development, jobs (employment), education, travel, etc., . . . Dual citizenship will, definitely, expand opportunities for indigenous Liberians, their children and descendants, both in Liberia and the USA”; and Dual citizenship has become a new, global phenomenon to access wealth worldwide; Liberia cannot afford to stay clear of the treasure hunt”.
Firstly (Item 1), throughout human history, the term “citizenship” described and denotes the relationship between the individual, the citizen, and the state, an organized, political community of citizens from the state of nature to the social state. That relationship is, in fact, a contract, an agreement (Social Contract/political theory clarified and formulated by Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778) with “terms and conditions” that defined mutually binding obligations/responsibilities – the state to the citizen and the citizen to the state. Although there had been and is continuing, timely changes in the relationships from state to state due, primarily, to peculiar socio-economic and political conditions that prevail in these states, the fundamental, basic lawful, mutually binding obligations are immutable; therefore, the concept of citizenship remains the same. The handful (out of a total of an estimated 200, worldwide) of countries or nations that “liberalized their citizenship requirements” did so, apparently, in their effort “. . . that dual citizenship can be accepted”, consistent with their peculiar socio-economic and political conditions/requirements.
For, it does not necessarily follow that because some western countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, and other African countries, recognize and accept dual citizenship and, therefore, liberalized citizenship requirements, Liberia should and must recognize and accept dual citizenship. Moreover, Dual citizenship is a profound and clear violation, by dual citizens, of the basic, fundamental, binding, lawful obligations – “terms & conditions – of the (social) contract/relationship. Moreover, sovereign nation-states reserve the right and authority to make and enforce laws, rules and regulations designed to guide and regulate local or domestic actions/interactions, promote, protect and defend their vital interests and those of their citizens, operative and enforceable within their territorial jurisdictions. Liberia is a sovereign nation-state, therefore, Liberia reserves the right and authority to make and maintain its own laws with citizenship requirements, consistent with such laws.
On Dual citizenship, Mr. Dan Eden (Eden, 2007) observes that because the notion of citizenship carries with it the responsibility/obligation to be exclusively loyal to a single country, the whole concept of dual citizenship raises questions about which of the dual citizenships has priority. This question is extremely important; in that, in the event that the two countries have opposing interests (which, often, has been the case, especially during these times of numerous, worldly conflicts) and that it can be a deadly problem when and where a dual citizen is in a high, policy-prescription/implementation position of government. Can one imagine Japanese-US, dual citizen serving in the Pentagon (US Ministry of National Defense) during WWII or a Soviet Union-US, dual citizen holding a cabinet position in the White House (US Executive Mansion & Office of the President) during the Cold War?
Mr. Eden writes that “Recently, in their much lauded paper, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, Harvard professor, Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor, John Mearsheimer, focused attention on the strong Israeli lobby which has a powerful influence over American foreign policies. They detail the influence that this lobby has exerted, forming a series of international policies which can be viewed as in direct opposition to the interests and security of the American people. These acts and policies are, more often than not, carried out by US government appointees who hold powerful positions and who are dual American-Israeli citizens. Since the policies they support are often exclusively beneficial to Israel, often to the detriment of America, it has been argued that their loyalties are misdirected. A few classic examples can be cited”:
“Jonathan Jay Pollard was an American-Israeli citizen who worked for the US government. He is well known because he stole more secrets from the U.S. than any other spy in American history. During his interrogation Pollard said he felt compelled to put the ‘interests of my state’ ahead of his own. Although as a U.S. Navy counter-intelligence specialist he had a top-secret security clearance; but, by ‘my state’ he meant the state of Israel”.
The 1940 Nationality Act
“Section 401 (e) of the 1940 Nationality Act provides that a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization, “shall lose his U.S. nationality by . . . voting in a political election in a foreign state. This law was tested many times. In 1958, for instance, an American citizen named Perez voted in a Mexican election. The case went to the Supreme Court, where the majority opinion held that Perez must lose his American nationality. The court said Congress could provide for expatriation as a reasonable way of preventing embarrassment to the United States in its foreign relations. But then something very odd happened”.
“In 1967, an American Jew, Beys Afroyim received an exemption that set a precedent exclusively for American Jews. Afroyim, born in Poland in 1895, migrated to America in 1912, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1926. In 1950, aged 55, he migrated to Israel and became an Israeli citizen. In 1951 Afroyim voted in an Israeli Knesset election and in five political elections that followed. So, by all standards he lost his American citizenship — right? Wrong”.
“After living in Israel for a decade, Afroyim wished to return to New York. In 1960, he asked the U.S. Consulate in Haifa, Israel, for an American passport. The Department of State refused the application, invoking section 401(e) of the Citizenship & Nationality Act — the same ruling that had stripped the American citizen named Perez of his U.S. citizenship. Attorneys acting for Afroyim took his case to a Washington, DC District Court, which upheld the law. Then his attorneys appealed to the Court of Appeals. This court also upheld the law. The attorneys for Afroyim then moved the case on to the Supreme Court”. Here, with Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, (the late President) Lyndon Johnson’s former attorney and one of the most powerful Jewish-Americans, casting the swing vote, the court voted five to four in favor of Afroyim. The court held that the U.S. government had no right to “rob” Afroyim of his American citizenship”!
“The court, reversing its previous judgment as regards the Mexican-American, ruled that Afroyim (the Jewish-American) had not shown “intent” to lose citizenship by voting in Israeli elections. Huh? While Washington claims it has a “good neighbor” policy with Mexico, the U.S. does not permit Mexicans to hold dual nationality. The US makes them become either U.S. or Mexican — you can’t be both. But the U.S., in its special relationship with Israel, has become very sympathetic to allowing Israeli-Americans to retain two nationalities and allowing U.S. citizens not only to hold public office in Israel, but to hold US government positions as well! No other country holds this special exception to our laws of citizenship (Dan Eden, 2007)”.
In the effort to capture the profound, negative impact of dual citizenship on national security more fully documented by the article quoted above, including other crucial and compelling national issues due to several factors – socio-cultural, ethnic/tribal and religious bigotry of fear, suspicion, jealousy, rivalry, prejudice and antagonism bordering on hate – in these days of national/international terrorism, rebellions, human suffering and death, arising from inordinate quest for power and the perceived, often corrupt or dishonestly-acquired wealth associated with such power, we deem it necessary and desirable for this lengthy quotation, including attachment of the full text of the article.
Dual nationality (or dual citizenship) results because there is no international rule or law regarding the granting/acquisition of naturalized citizenship. Each nation makes and has its own, independent laws, domestic policies and requirements on the basis of which naturalized citizenships are granted. Although the United States, for example, says that it does not favor dual nationality as a matter of policy and subscribes to and requires an exclusive oath of allegiance/loyalty to a single nation at a time, but recognizes and practices dual nationality “in specialized, individual cases”. However, we believe that Law is derived from and based on human reason, applied in accordance and consistent with socio-cultural moral rectitude for the achievement of the vital interests and needs of a given people and nation. Liberian is no less guided and dedicated.
Secondly (Item 2), we agree and admit that the Liberian Political Economy and its stated derivatives bear responsibility for the massive, unprecedented exodus of Liberians into foreign countries, because of or without which, the affected or any other Liberians may, under Liberian law, change his/her Liberian citizenship from Liberian to any other only, but that did or does not justify simultaneous claim of Liberian and foreign citizenships – dual citizenship – an act in violation of Section 22.1 of the Liberian, Alien & Nationality Law and Article 28 of the Liberian Constitution of 1986.
Moreover, adoption of dual citizenship in Liberia is highly unlikely “to benefit the country in various, major ways”; in that, validated evidence shows that activities of dual citizens are inimical to national security as shown above (Item 1); the historic practices of dual citizenship by leading, high-profiled officials of successive, Liberian governments were found to be extremely detrimental to the nation’s interests since independence in 1847; some of these officials were leaders of both private and public, economic and political institutions as well as the god-fathers of the nation’s political economy who, systematically, monopolized socio-economic and administrative power; and some of the facts of Liberia’s turbulent past and deadly, recent history of the 15-year, civil tragedy are all attributable to acts of dual citizens. Therefore, dual citizenship should not and must not be recognized and adopted in Liberia.
Thirdly (Item 3), “clearly, Liberians that are trained, experienced professionals and technocrats in the Diaspora . . . constitute (an important part of) the kernel of the country’s skill pool”; however, it does not, necessarily, follow that they are eager, ready and will return to “. . . benefit” Liberia in its social, economic and political development, while living abroad permanently with “exclusive” loyalty and allegiance to a foreign country. Most of the hard-cored, leadership of dual citizenship proponents are middle-class Liberians – academics, university professors, lawyers, engineers, doctors, business managers, IT professionals, etc. – some of who have been living out of Liberia (invested in homes and retirement income) for almost 10-20 years, although they know that their expertise is not only appreciated, but also in high demand here, on the ground, in Liberia; for, effective/efficient, relevant change will come only with active involvement of the informed, educated, trained, experienced, courageous and dedicated citizens.
Importantly, those Diaspora-based Liberians with interest for reform, improvement and transformation of our nation’s socio-economic and political order necessary to benefit them and all; those living in foreign countries who observed and experienced, comparatively, the dynamics of world, democratic, political/economic systems and leadership; and those who criticize, reasonably and rightly, the policies of our country, but pontificate policy solutions from the relative comfort of these developed countries, It is important to note that no matter the level of one’s academic training and knowledge of the issues; and one’s patriotism, passionate commitment and dedication to socio-economic and political transformation in Liberia, one must be on the ground in Liberia because one cannot effect democratic change in Liberia by remote control. One must be physically present on the ground in Liberia to observe and experience the dynamics of the socio-economic and political, developmental process – who does what, to whom, why, how, where, when and the context of these dynamics.
The ULAA-sponsored, dual citizen proposal is, simply and apparently, a ploy to create a new class of a privileged, “alien” Liberians – travelled, educated, live abroad, with exclusive allegiance to foreign countries; one foot here in Liberia periodically (a month or so) and the other foot in the foreign countries in which they live permanently with families, as naturalized citizens.
Experience shows that there is, on the part of the average, uninformed Liberians (they are in the majority), a latent fear and suspicion of and hostility towards the so-called “book people, foreign-educated elites, who talk too much” (windy) about issues that are beyond their comprehension. This condition, unfortunately, is an outgrowth and extension of our traditional ethnic/tribal bigotry. It is, also, shown and demonstrated by some of our African, political leaders who, by accident of history, shoot their way to the presidential palace, with no claim of political leadership training/experience, and surround themselves with foreign-educated aides/counsels/advisors, a proven, window-dressing objective, designed to impress and attract foreign aid and friendly donors.
We argue, therefore, that Dual citizenship will, certainly, reinforce this condition (of fear and suspicion of and hostility towards the-now, foreign-educated, Liberian dual citizens, who live permanently in foreign countries) in the minds of the people that another special, privileged class of elites is or being created by law.
Fourthly (Item 4), answers to sections 4(a & b) are provided by Chapters 20, 21 & 22 of the Alien & Nationality Law of 1973, while resolution of section 4(c) is in accordance with section 21.1 of Chapter 20 of the Alien & Nationality Law of 1973. We believe and argue that successful, democratic, thriving, peaceful, political communities are those that are dedicated to the respect for the right and dignity of the human person, observe, obey and diligently enforce the majesty of law in full force and effect, under the Rule of Law. The Republic of Liberia is so dedicated and committed.
And Fifthly (Item 5, Mr. Massaley’s “Dual Citizenship Shock & Awe . . .”), Mr. Massaley’s approach of dual citizenship, among negative others, is and will be license for native (indigenous) Liberians to abandon their country, in droves, in search of the proverbial “green pastures” in foreign countries, in response to the argument that “opportunities for investments, real estate development, employment, education, etc, are limited in Liberia”. The fact of this matter is that in this country, with sparsely-populated, less than 4 million people, there is more land than there are people.
More importantly, as a tropical country with a history of agriculture as traditional, economic activity, there are tremendous opportunities for investment in food production, not only to provide food security in Liberia, but also for export trade. We can grow, produce and process for local consumption and export, such tropical food products as rice, corn, cassava, yams, potatoes, plantain, banana, eddoes, palm oil, corn oil, processed palm butter, bitter balls, egg plant, pawpaw, cabbage, cucumber, onions, peanuts/peanut butter, leaf lettuce, processed cassava leaves, potato leaves, collard greens, palava sauce, fish and fish farming, raise goats, cows, cocoa, coffee, poultry/poultry products, etc., etc. The enterprising, educated, energetic, idealistic, dedicated young Liberians can/must take a lesson from neighboring La Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana for cocoa & coffee production and export.
Moreover, our country is endowed, relatively, with more than its share of natural resources – a land of rich soil, lush greenery, adequate, daily sunlight energy, rainfall, rivers and streams with several species of fish, etc., etc. But we must and have to claim this land of many opportunities and possibilities, not wait for government initiatives or foreign entrepreneurs; neither can we transform Liberia’s economy for the benefit of Liberians by remote pontifications from faraway, foreign countries. The People’s Republic of China, one of the rising or risen stars of world economic and scientific innovations, including such countries as Japan and India that rival the USA, were poor, under-developed nations like us, just some 50 years ago.
No, abandoning our country to take refuge in the comfort of developed, foreign countries, built by hard work and sacrifices of others, is not a reasonable approach, will not resolve the problem of “limited opportunities” nor reduce and eventually eliminate poverty, hunger and illiteracy, etc., but will exacerbate and deepen our socio-economic and political malaise.
There are great and exciting opportunities in Liberia for all Liberians, not only for “native” or indigenous citizens; opportunities in all sectors of the economy, including foreign travel for education, technical training for technology-transfer, attracting and securing foreign capital investments, corporate partnerships and cooperation.
Given the abysmal, historic failure of our political economy dominated by dual citizens, a condition that resulted into a nation now reeling under the burden of social, economic and political under-development, it would be suicidal to introduce dual citizenship into the Republic, whether lawful or unlawful. As a small, relatively poor, developing country of less than 4 million people, the majority of which is, relatively, uninformed and live in abject poverty, it is and will be greatly unwise, indeed dangerous, for the Republic to recognize and permit dual citizenship, a system which could and may, likely, award and entrust the political, economic, social and moral leadership, the life and security of the nation, to an “alien Liberian” who has denounced/renounced his/her lawful obligations to the Republic, and whose exclusive allegiance, patriotism and loyalty are mortgaged to a foreign country.
With dual citizenship adopted, Liberia could and very well sink deeper and deeper in and experience what Miss Robtel Pailey described eloquently as “one only has to peak in the doors of our major concession negotiations, our policy meetings at the highest levels or our posh restaurants/bars/clubs/entertainment centers to see who actually wields political, economic and social power” in Liberia – “non-black, non-African nationals” in unholy alliances with some high-profiled, political leaders/dual citizens, powerful elites (Pailey, Commentary on The Negro Clause, FPA, October 22, 2012).
During these difficult days in which the Republic is engaged in post-conflict reconstruction in an atmosphere of international terrorism, ethnic/tribal conflicts, the ever-present and increasing graft, greed, private/public dishonesty (corruption), the need for national security and the survival of the nation and its people are supreme. In our view, the reasons, among many others, are profoundly critical and, particularly, democratic; for, the preservation, promotion and protection of the interests of the majority, through diligent observance and enforcement of the law, over-ride the interest of a single citizen or a very few, handful of citizens, who are dual citizens, and in violation of the law.
Examples of Likely Outcomes
For an insight into the dual citizen scenario let us suppose and assume:
First, that Solo Gaye is a dual citizen of countries A and B. Subsequently, a ferocious and highly dangerous war breaks out between the two countries, A and B. For which country will Mr. Solo Gaye take up arms and do battle in defense of his country, consistent with his lawful obligations?
Second, Boima Sando is a dual citizen of countries C and D. Of the two countries, Mr. Sando lives in country C, his original, native land. Country D is the wealthier and most powerful and superior nation on the international scene, in socio-economic, diplomatic and military terms. After committing a series of serious crimes, including major, dishonest, corrupt activities in his original, native country C, Mr. Sando escapes to country D of which he is also citizen. Will extradition lie? If so, will extradition be effected, given the superior wealth, political/diplomatic/military clout and might of country D? Unfortunately, there is recorded history of the denial of such extradition requests on the grounds the subject individual is or was a citizen.