Liberia: New Parliament Discuss Dual Citizenship Bill

The Liberian Senate has begun serious debate on the proposed Dual Citizenship bill for Liberians and others who have pledged their allegiances to other nations to obtain citizenship as Liberian.

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Liberian Legislators in Session – File Photo

Our Monrovia correspondent reports that some members of the Liberian Senate who are in support of the Bill said that it’s time that  modern day Liberians think twice about those Liberians who fled the country and obtained citizenship in other countries to allow them to also form party of the country’s rebuilding process.

Senators from other counties said that the debate is necessary and healthy but that it will be important for the committee to bring in experts to enable lawmakers to hear their views on the matter and make a good decision at the end.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson

As the debate went on, Nimba County Senator and former war lord, Prince Y. Johnson told his colleagues that supporting dual citizenship is not the priority of the people of Liberia.

Senator Johnson who committed hideous crimes during the civil conflict in Liberia said instead of the Liberian Senate wasting its time after bills that have no effect on the people of Liberia, they should instead focus on strengthening the education, health and other sectors of the country.

The former rebel general now Senator from northeastern Liberia added that those supporting the Dual Citizenship Bill are those who have pledged their allegiances to other countries and take Liberia to be their farmland where they can collect funds to support their families abroad.

The Nimba County Lawmaker further stated that these people come to Liberia to earn money and send the money to other countries to buy houses and support their families who are in those foreign lands. He said these individuals are not helping to build Liberia instead they are destroying the country.

 Also speaking, Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Sherman who was indicted for corruption in the Sable Mining case in the last administration presented the Bill in Plenary and stated reasons why Dual Citizenship Law should exist.

Senator Sherman who is chair on Judiciary at the Liberian Senate gave reasons why amendments to the the country’s Alien and Nationality law is necessary The Senator said it is unfair to have a naturalized Liberian in another country and deny them their citizenship.

He stated that it is necessary to make amendment on chapter 20, 21 and 22 of the Alien and Nationality law. Giving reasons, he said when a father’s citizenship is revoked the child/children’s citizenship should not be revoked as it is stated in the law.

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According to reports, this is the third time that the Dual Citizenship Bill has been presented to the Senate plenary for discussion but it has not been favorably supported. The first it was discussed was during the leadership of the 52nd and the second time the 53rd Legislature lawmakers and it was trashed out due to its nature. Now the 54th session of the small West African county’s Legislative body has been presented with this Bill and from the views of several lawmakers, this bill will not be passed into law.

President George Weah, in his annual message said since the founding of this country in 1847, more than 170 years ago, there have been certain restrictions on citizenship and property ownership that in my view have become serious impediments to the development and progress of this country.

He stated that these restrictions include the limitation of citizenship only to black people, the limitation of property ownership exclusively to citizens, and the non-allowance of dual citizenship.

He mentioned, “This may have been appropriate for the 19th century, and for the threats and conditions that existed at that time. However, here in the 21st century, I am of the view that these threats no longer exist, and that these conditions have changed. In these circumstances, it is my view that keeping such a clause in our constitution is unnecessary, racist, and inappropriate for the place that Liberia occupies today in the comity of nations.”

“It also contradicts the very definition of Liberia, which is derived from the Latin word “liber,” meaning ‘Liberty’. I believe that we should have nothing to fear from people of any other race of becoming citizens of Liberia, once they conform to the requirements of our Immigration and Naturalization Laws, as maybe appropriately amended to address this new situation,” President Weah stated.

The Liberian leader said, “In fact, we have everything to gain. If we look in our region amongst the other member states of ECOWAS, especially our neighbors in La Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, it will soon be observed that permitting people of other races to become citizens has not marginalized their indigents”.

“I believe that this is an anomaly that should not have found its way into the 1986 Constitution -Chapter 4, Article 27. I therefore strongly recommend and propose, respectfully, that consideration should be given to removing it by appropriate measures provided for in our laws for amending constitution,” President Weah noted.

Reporting by Lincoln Barcon in Monrovia

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