By: Pastor Kortu Brown
I read with interest the Daily Observer’s Editorial of Thursday, March 05, 2015, entitled: “Dual Citizenship: Look Up and Forward, Pastor Brown – not Down and Backward” and Letters to the editor captioned: “Dual Citizenship:
Liberians Everywhere Take Pastor Kortu Brown to Task” in the same publication, page 5, largely accusing me of being “stupid,” “idiot,” “playing the ethnic card,” etc. because I dared to express my VIEWS on the current debate on dual citizenship in Liberia.
I also appreciated the “lecture” provided by the editorial board on the history of Israel and I think it is application to the quest for dual citizenship by some Liberians.
But here is what I wrote and/ or have been saying for several days now:
1. That the issue of dual citizenship for Liberia is not timely.
2. That there are more serious national concerns i.e. children going to school, ending Ebola and rebuilding health system, poverty, fixing our roads, state-wide initiatives to increase incomes at the individual, household, community and national levels, etc. to address at the moment than focusing on an issue that can be addressed later
3. That we should be careful how we craft this dual citizenship initiative to avoid a repetition of the concept of the “Country-Congo” divide that plunged the country into a bloody coup and a civil war. Ours, as a nation, has been an experience in self-affliction that resulted in a class system that brought us untold pains to repel. No matter which side of the divide you were then, we know that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. So we must check this “power” that we want to give out because old habits die hard!
4. That an alternative to “dual citizenship” could be the Indian model of “Overseas Citizens of India” (OCI) which enables Indians in the Diaspora to freely return to their land of nativity and contribute to the socio-economic development of their country.
5. That Liberia could enact the “Overseas Citizens of Liberia” (OCL) Act to accommodate the aspirations of natural-born Liberians who have lost their citizenship due to them “renouncing and abjuring” their citizenship of nativity in a foreign land
6. That most Liberians of influence whether [settler descendant or indigenous],” are not deeply committed to this country and will place a foreign country’s interest over and above their land of nativity. As a matter of fact, it was only until recently that most Liberians overseas began to think seriously about dual citizenship. Many didn’t think Liberia was “worthy” of their new found status as either American or European citizens or otherwise. That’s our history, that’s our experience. Should we dodge it or sacrifice it on the altar of a dual citizenship campaign?
Now to some of the allegations made against me:
1. Playing the ethnic card? : I don’t promote ethnicity and will never do. I am “[part indigenous, I am “part settler”]. Part of my family background is Millsburg. I just spoke my mind and I think am entitled to it. I’m forewarning based on our recent past. A good initiative to return [men and women freed from slavery] to Liberia ended into a “class struggle” between people who returned home and those they met on the ground.
That struggle was sustained through mistrust, division, wars, etc. for well over a century and a half based on preconceptions, misconception, am-better-than-you attitude, etc. Therefore no matter how well-intentioned we may be, we must take care not to repeat that unfortunate experience as we debate the dual citizenship proposal.
What’s playing-the-ethnic-card about saying that? If in a country where the illiteracy rate is as high as 70% and you try to make two categories of citizenship, shouldn’t you be concerned about the possibility of it contributing and/or resuscitating old social divides like the [settler-indigenous one]?
2. Sierra Leone: I didn’t say Sierra Leone is not dual citizenship. It’s www.immihelp.com that reported that. I quoted them with a question mark (?). Mr. Editor, please check my article and see if I did not put a question mark to Sierra Leone. I even mentioned [that] Liberia is not on the list. Daily Observer claims I got most of my facts wrong. I think it’s the paper not reading my facts properly. I’ve a copy of the 2006 Dual Citizenship Act of Sierra Leone
3. Israel: This is a country that has seen dispersion, persecution and death for about two thousand years at the hands of her enemies. Jews scattered all around the world – and waited for the Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. That came May 1948. Thank God! For Israeli, they are first and foremost, Jewish.
Their situation and devotion to country and people is slightly different from Liberia. Most Liberians overseas say it is the civil war that forced them away from their country and made them “renounce and abjure” their citizenship of nativity. Well, if that is the case, then they don’t need dual citizenship status for them to come back home.
A nominee for Minister of Education refused Liberian Senate inquiry in 2014 to relinquish US Citizenship to serve as Minister of Education. Mayor Boris Johnson of London has announced his intentions to renounce US Citizenship and maintain his British citizenship
4. Overseas Citizens of Liberia: To advance the discussions, I have proposed that we adopt the Indian model of dual citizenship, “Overseas Citizens of India” (OCI), where one person doesn’t carry two passports but a “permit” to enter and leave the country and do business as you desire within the confines of the law. This is a one step forward over and above the current rejection without an alternative. But this category of citizens will be eligible for elected office, etc.
5. Civil discourse: I plead with you and your readers that we kindly make the debate courteous, polite, and responsible even if we don’t share the same sides of the discussions. Calling names and being disrespectful because someone doesn’t share your view, is disingenuous to be debate because it’s an unfair effort to silence others by attacking their persons, etc. If this discourse is not frank, honest and open then I doubt if we are able to sustain a society of “dual and single citizens” because this will be something we will debate for the rest of our lives.
6. Focus: Most supporters of dual citizenship mostly focus on Liberians living in the USA and / or Europe. But there are Liberians all over including West Africa and [other] parts of the world. Secondly, many countries with dual citizenship may not share the experience that Liberia had with de facto dual citizenship for more than one hundred and fifty years.
7. My Contribution to Liberia: Well, maybe the person accusing me of doing nothing has NOT been in Liberia for more than quarter of a century. My contributions from emergency relief, rehabilitation, education, agriculture, to peace making and reconciliation, Ebola, etc., are all documented. Check the internet. Goggle Kortu K. Brown and you will read some of that. Secondly, I have not run away from Liberia all through the years of conflict even when I could. My wife and children are all here. I love Liberia and don’t want it hurt again and left bleeding by people who are here today and gone tomorrow when difficulties strike. That’s why I am yelling and admonishing caution on dual citizenship.
I hope I have brought some clarity to some of the issues I raised in my previous article. I ask the Daily Observer, a paper I’ve read since 1981, to publish in full my previous article and let the public read the facts I got wrong there. May God bless and guide our country and people.
Pastor Kortu Brown is the New Water in the Desert Assembly; General Overseer, Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Liberia