Following the issuing of an advisory by the Liberia Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia, RL, that Liberians who supposedly lost their citizenship after naturalizing in other countries can now reclaim their citizenship, dozens of Liberians in the diaspora are said to be overwhelmed of the recent pronouncement my the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs on September 22, 2021 in which it cited the High Court Ruling and Judgement of December 19, 2019, declaring Sections 22.1 and 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, title 4 of the Liberia Code of Law Revises, approved May 15, 1973 and published , unconstitutional, to the extent that it does not provide due process before forfeiture of Liberian citizenship…”
The Ministry of Justice in Liberia issued an advisory to the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs on September 22, 2021 in which it cited the High Court Ruling and Judgement of December 19, 2019. In that legal ruling Liberia’s Supreme Court “…declared Sections 22.1 and 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, title 4 of the Liberia Code of Law Revises, approved May 15, 1973 and published , unconstitutional, to the extent that it does not provide due process before forfeiture of Liberian citizenship…”
In recent years, the lack of due process and automatic forfeiture of citizenship for those Liberians who took up foreign citizenship was challenged by a natural born Liberian citizen Mr. Alvin Teage Jalloh. Residing in the US and having taken up U.S. citizenship, Mr. Jalloh had requested a travel document from the Liberian Embassy in Washington in order to travel to Liberia. However, his request was turned down on grounds that he was a naturalized U.S. citizen and would, instead, require a non-immigrant Liberian visa to travel to the West African country.
He subsequently challenged Liberia’s Aliens and Nationality Law and argued in a petition that the lack of due process in stripping him of his natural born citizenship was unconstitutional and a violation of his rights under the country’s constitution and that such a provision be repealed.
Hundreds of thousands of Liberians across globe have had their dual citizenship go unrecognized for decades, thereby discriminating against their rights as natural born citizens.
The umbrella civic organization of Liberian organizations in the U.S. known as the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) for years led sustained advocacy for repeal of sections of the Liberian Aliens and Nationality laws which discriminates against dual citizenship. President George M. Weah also signaled his support for dual citizenship for diaspora Liberians who are considered as the middle class of the poor West African country.
The submission by Justice Minister Frank M. Dean to facilitate the implementation of the Supreme Court decision in Jalloh v. Government of Liberia has been long overdue but it is necessary legal and decisive decision. Jalloh won the Government of Liberia in the West African nation’s highest court in 2019.
However, in the face of the Supreme Court 2019 decision in favor of Jalloh, President George Weah and his CDC led Government led a campaign to implement the approval of a Senate bill that immigration advocates considered as discriminatory.
African Star previously reported how the then Liberia Senate bill that was sent for a referendum in 2020 was the latest version of the dual citizenship bill that was presented to the body by Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County. The bill sought to repeal chapter 22, Sections 22.1 and 22.2, Loss of citizenship, of the 1974 Alien and Naturalization Laws of Liberia which was already considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2019.
The Senate bill that went under consideration and subsequently passed by the Liberian Senate attempted to curtail the rights of dual citizens from serving as President, Vice President, Speak of the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate. It also strives to limit senior cabinet levels appointment opportunities with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Finance, and State for Presidential Affairs as well in the Central Bank of Liberia. The bill was defeated overwhelming in a referendum by Liberian voters despite the fact that President Weah and his CDC apologist considered that measure as the President’s project.
African Star reported previously how the renewed drive came at a time when the country’s Supreme Court was indecisive in offering its opinions following oral arguments in the case: Alvin Teagle Jalloh vs. Government of Liberia. Jalloh, who was born in Liberia and acquired U.S. citizenship, had filed a petition to the West African nation’s Supreme Court to declare Chapter 22 Sections 22.1 and 22.2, Loss of Citizenship, of the 1974 Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia unconstitutional.
Explicitly, at issue in the Supreme Court of Liberia at the time was Chapter 22, Section 22.1 of the 1974 Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia which states that “a person who is a citizen of Liberia whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his citizenship by (a) obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application, upon the application of a duly authorized agent.”
Nevertheless, Chapter IV, Article 28 of the 1985 Constitution of Liberia specifies that “no citizen of the Republic (of Liberia) shall be deprived of citizenship or nationality except as provided by law; and no person shall be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality”. Jalloh and his supporters of dual citizenship argued that the automatic loss of citizenship violates due process rights as provided for by the Liberian Constitution and negates the factors that created the Diaspora Liberian population.
The only logical option at the time during the Sirleaf administration for the attainment of dual citizenship for Diaspora Liberians was the legal action filed in the country’s Supreme Court that petitioned the judges in the higher court to declare Chapter 22, Section 21.1 of the Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia unconstitutional.
There was a strong possibility that this could happen only if the following conditions were attained: (1) if then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who had expressed her support for dual citizenship repeatedly prevail on her then-Attorney- General and Justice Minister Frederick Doe Cherue to plead no contest to the dual citizenship case before country’s Supreme Court. This single but most important action eventually ended the debate by sanctioning a ruling in favor of dual citizenship. The Sirleaf regime to its credit presented no legal contest.
The dual citizenship debate was escalated by a vote in the Constitutional Review Conference, which was held in Gbarnga, Bong County, Liberia. At that conference, delegates from the 73 electoral districts of Liberia defeated the dual citizenship proposition.
The vote in the Gbarnga Conference followed a roundtable debate on dual citizenship that was convened in Monrovia, Liberia. During the Monrovia debate, few key officials in Monrovia came to the support of dual citizenship including the country’s Speaker of the House of Representatives.
However, their arguments were among the minority view in a constitutional debate that was managed and controlled by former warlords, opportunists and apologists of failed Liberian regimes who feel threatened by the return of Diaspora Liberians with high credentials, expertise, and resources.
But the hatred towards Diaspora Liberians who are blamed by several ill-advised Liberian Government officials, politicians, and former warlords for making Liberia a welfare state through their remittance of money to relatives and friends who cannot find employment in a country of over 5 million people was sufficient to deny the dual citizenship proposition.
While the arguments against Diaspora Liberians may sound illogical and unreasonable, they are easy to gain support and acceptance in a country that is swamped with a culture of patronage and illiteracy. Moreover, the rise of dual citizenship debate is a comparatively recent phenomenon in Liberia. The resistance and emphatic hostility to it is incredible; whether by means of de facto or de-jure, dual citizenship has been practiced throughout Liberia’s existence without the present downright resentment from leading Liberian Government officials including those in the country’s Legislative Branch.
Historically, Liberia was founded by freed slaves from the American through the auspices of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in the 1820’s. In the founding of Liberia, there were three group of people – the settlers that comprised Americo-Liberians and the recaptured slaves from the Congo Basin and African Liberians who include the natives of the then Grain Coast as Liberia was called before 1847.
Since 1847 the Americo-Liberian component of the Liberian state continues to hold dual American and Liberian citizenships at the same time without any change in the Liberian citizenship laws. Equally, the African Liberians segment of Liberia who are composed of individuals who hold citizenships in other African states like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Ivory Coast among others. Dual citizenship has never been a problem because Liberia’s founding can be traced to dual citizenship.
Meanwhile, in its letter to the Foreign Ministry, the Liberian Ministry of Justice further advised that, “…Henceforth, Liberian citizens who undertake any one or more of the acts described in section 22.12 do not, ipso facto lose Liberian citizenship, without the institution of a proceeding to nullify or cancel such citizenship. The automatic forfeiture of Liberian citizenship, without resort to any judicial proceeding to nullify or cancel same, is declared unconstitutional, void and null…,” the letter said.
The Liberian Government’s decision which has been favorably received in various quarters in and out of the country and on social media effectively recognized dual citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Liberians in the same way that over 13 African countries have done.