Dual Citizenship Suffers Setback…As Several Groups Oppose Idea At Public Hearing

By Alva M. Wolokolie

The Union of Liberian Association in the Americas (ULAA) has received a serious setback from other Liberians who have assembled to debate the status of the dual citizenship bill.

At a public hearing held during the weekend at the University of Liberia (UL) auditorium on Capitol Hill before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, a member of the committee, Mr. Abraham G. Massaley told the audience that the association has come to ensure that the Alien and Nationality Law of the country be repealed.

Speaking on behalf of all the associations in Europe, Australia, Ghana, Southwestern United States and other parts of the world, Mr. Massaley said Liberians in the Diaspora have already launched a campaign to repeal the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia. He argued that Chapter 22 of the 1973 Alien law is unjust and unconstitutional, regarding the loss of citizenship for natural born citizens.

Massaley told his fellow Liberians at the public hearing that the statue deprives natural born Liberians of their birth rights while discriminating against the offsprings of Liberian women.

“Chapter 22 of the Alien and Nationality exists in contravention of the Liberian Constitution, and international accords to which Liberia is signatory,” he said in a resolution that was read.

He further debated  that the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law was patterned after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1952 which was amended in 1986 to allow natural born Americans to naturalize in foreign countries without losing their American citizenship.

“Black Americans, Ghanaians, Nigerians, British, Sierra Leoneans, South Africans, Kenyans and several other nationalities can naturalize in Liberia without losing citizenships in their countries of origin. Unlike America and other nations, Liberia, despite major social, economic, and political changes, has not updated its Alien and Nationality Law since 1974,” Massaley said.

Mr. Massaley, a former President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) said Liberians that naturalize abroad are not only stripped of their Liberian citizenships but are also disqualified from owning land or other real estates in their native home.

He indicated that the country has gone through tumultuous political change from the 1980 military intervention to 14 years of civil war which has resulted to a huge refugee and immigrant population not envisioned by architects of the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law.

Massaley debated that the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law is in violation of Articles 11(c), 20 (a), Article 27(a) and 95 (a) of the Constitution, and it discriminates on the basis of gender because the statue does not recognize children born outside Liberia unto Liberian mothers as Liberian citizens but recognizes children born outside the country to Liberian fathers as natural born Liberians.

He stated further that Article 27(a) of the 1986 Constitution clearly states that “All persons who, on the coming into force of this Constitution were lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian citizens”.

‘Section 20.1(b) of the Nationality Law unconstitutionally discriminates against Liberian mothers in that it does not recognize children born outside Liberia to Liberian mothers as Liberian citizens but recognizes children born outside Liberia to Liberian fathers as Liberian citizens,’ Massaley noted.

He said there are more than 500,000 Liberians residing out of the country and the good intentions of those Liberian immigrants who are seizing on opportunities to naturalize abroad in order to obtain jobs that are reserved for citizens, gain priority in bringing family members to countries like the US as immigrants, have greater eligibility for government-sponsored social benefits such as social security supplemental income, education and medical assistance that are reserved for citizens, or get exemption from the routine reporting requirements that are imposed on resident aliens often with exogenous fees.

He noted that these are the reasons why they are requesting the National Legislature to repeal with urgency, the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law as amended in 1974 to allow for the retention of citizenships for natural born Liberians who naturalize in a foreign country and to provide for children born out of the country by Liberian mothers to enjoy the same citizenship rights already being enjoyed by children of Liberian fathers.

But in a strong reaction to the Union of Liberian Association in the Americas (ULAA), the University of Liberia Students Union (ULSU), the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), the Law Reform Commission (LRC), the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), and the National Tradition Council of Liberia (NTCL) spoke separately highlighting that Liberia is not ready for such a bill because the detail must be known so that the debate can extend to other parts of the country.

Each group’s representative told the Americas delegation that the bill must be perused because Liberians cannot afford to make their home a ‘problematic Republic’. They raised issues about which direction will an individual pledge his allegiance in terms of military intervention between the two countries or how will an American who is also a Liberian commits crime in Liberia but cannot be tried in another land according to American law.

The debate prematurely went to a close down when the delegation announced to the audience and the Committee on Judiciary that they had a schedule meeting with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Although the Committee did not accept the departure of the US delegation, they however left but left one of their members on the floor of the debate to answer questions from the audience. It was at that point that most people decided to leave the auditorium because they felt the group had undermined its own agenda.