Liberia’s Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan has given his position on the long running debate on dual citizenship in Liberia, calling for the passage of a dual citizenship law but with exceptions.
Foreign Minister Ngafuan speaking at the 39th Assembly of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) in the US State of Ohio said it is now time to proceed in what he called a pragmatic manner by immediately passing what is palatable and less controversial.
The Liberian Foreign Minister suggested that if in the future resistance reduces and appetite improves, Liberia needs to take on the most difficult provisions in the dual citizenship package and pass them.
“This approach will entail doing as was done in Ghana and many other African countries that have dual citizenship regimes: provide for dual citizenship in the statutes but explicitly state that, for certain positions, no one with dual citizenship is eligible” he said.
Minister Ngafuan cited the Republic of Ghana as an example, where positions such as Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court, Ambassadors, Chief of Defense Staff of the Armed Forces, Inspector General of Police, Director of Immigration, Chief Director of a Ministry, and many others cannot be occupied by anyone who possesses dual citizenship.
He said the decision on which specific positions to prevent dual citizens from occupying in Liberia could be determined through a rigorous consultative process involving all relevant stakeholders.
He said the dual citizenship debate both in Liberia and in the Diaspora has been heavily charged as both the proponents and the opponents of dual citizenship advance their various perspectives with deep passion and sentiments.
Ngafuan, a former student leader and a respected political pundit, remarked that his proposal is informed largely by the difficulty in dismissing some of the concerns of opponents of dual citizenship especially as regards the possibility of conflict of interest and divided loyalty if a top level, sensitive position is held by a dual citizen.
He said that another issue that is difficult to dismiss is the concern harbored by opponents of dual citizenship about the potential difficulty of prosecuting a top-level official who is dual citizen accused of committing and unwholesome act in Liberia.
But in spite of these and numerous other concerns harbored by opponents of dual citizenship, Min. Ngafuan said that it was unfair to look at someone born and bred in a Liberian village or city and call them alien or foreigner just because they once upon a time assumed the citizenship of another country.
He said the overriding motivation behind the assumption of the citizenship of another country was the desire by many to access opportunities in foreign land so that they could improve their own livelihoods as well as cater to family and friends back in Liberia through regular and larger remittances of funds.
In an environment where the 14-year Liberian Civil War had uprooted many Liberians and occasioned their flight to displaced and refugee camps in Liberia and across West Africa, many Liberians viewed the assumption of dual citizenship as a means of filing for their relatives to relocate to foreign parts in order to pursue a better living.
The Foreign Minister observed that the many Liberians with dual citizenship possess valuable skills that could be harnessed in reducing the vast skills deficit in post-conflict Liberia; however the country may not have the opportunity of benefitting from their skills merely because they are considered foreigners.
Minister Ngafuan stated those against the move have furthered argued that the performance of these relocated Liberians has been a mixed bag of “good news and bad news”.
“While some have brought home much needed expertise and contacts and have diligently and honestly worked for the forward movement of our dear country, others have behaved arrogantly and engaged in unsavory and unwholesome practices that have only compounded the local antipathy towards dual citizenship, he told the Ohio gathering.