By: Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
The New Democrat newspaper (New Democrat, June 27, 2014) reports that “despite Liberia being independent since . . . 1847, the country is still controlled by individuals who pay allegiance to the USA”. They are dual citizens - Liberians who are naturalized citizens of foreign countries but claim Liberian citizenships. Case in point, the paper says, “is the President’s son, Mr. Robert Sirleaf, former Senior Advisor to his Mother/President of Liberia and an admitted US citizen with Passport #218198381, in Liberia on permit of residence (visitor, work?) since June, 2010, and former Chairman of the Board of the National Oil Corporation of Liberia”.
And, according to the FPA newspaper (FrontPageAfricaonline, July 2, 2014), “Dual citizenship is one of the newest debates (has been and is for years) in Liberia as many Diaspora Liberians who gained foreign citizenship . . . are pushing to be granted dual citizenship to enable them maintain their foreign and Liberian citizenships at the same time”. Cases in point, FPA says, are that “many Liberians appointed to positions in government have been denied confirmation by the (Liberian) Senate as a consequence of their dual citizenship status, but there are still others serving top positions in government who hold dual nationality. The President (of Liberia) admitted that there are several individuals serving in her government who hold dual citizenship”. For example, “Public Works Minister (appearing before the Senate) responded to a question . . . about her citizenship, said ‘that is a crazy question, I am a Liberian, I got a birth certificate and have a Liberian passport; how else I can prove my Liberialism?’” Meanwhile, Dual citizenship had been and is illegal in Liberia.
These persistent reports are not only clear violations of law, particularly, against dual citizenship, but also profound disregard, disrespect and premeditated “put-down” of our law, the Liberian nation and people and, above all, disloyalty and unpatriotism to the nation by individuals who make unlawful claims of Liberian citizenshps, at the highest levels, simply, for economic gain. We present this response because dual citizenship had been, throughout our history, and is, one of the major sources of the nation’s socio-economic and political nightmares, including corruption which the nation’s current President described as “Liberia’s public enemy No. 1” - public/private dishonesty (corruption, now roaring, no longer “rampant”); and an indictment of the nation’s moral rectitude; and, most importantly, a dangerous threat to national security of the nation.
The history of citizenship is a description of the changing relationships or contracts by and between the individual, the citizen, and the political community, the social state, with governing conditions - legal rights, obligations and responsibilities of the citizen to the state, and of the state to the citizen. This mode of relationship obtained and continues to obtain, according to history and dates, specifically, from the days of the political thinkers (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) of ancient, Greek city-states, through middle ages to our modern, contemporary times. Fundamentally, citizenship is defined by and based on commitments/obligations of “Love-of-country” – loyalty, allegiance, patriotism and other, related, lawful obligations of the citizen to the state, and the state to the citizen.
These obligations/responsibilities include such services (during civil disasters and military conflicts, socio-economic, political and security) that are so very important that they constitute major components of the curriculum for the study of Civics, the course of study designed to impart and instill into the minds of young citizens the critical, lawful and moral obligations of citizen to the state and the state to the citizen; notions of loyalty, allegiance and patriotism; socio-cultural principles and values; and the sense of national belonging, individual/collective identity, unity and security. Therefore, citizenship, as a right, is not without reasonable obligations/responsibilities. That right is defined and bestowed upon individuals, now citizens, by the social state based on and in return of binding obligations – terms & conditions of the citizen to the state and the state to the citizen.
Birth Rights & Jus Soli (right of the soil)
Birth rights (births on the soil) are not citizenship rights because birthrights are ordained and given by nature; whereas, citizenship rights are given by the social state. Therefore, the state-giver may deny or reject citizenship rights for cause, consistent with established, binding terms and conditions.
Jus Soli (right of the soil). Recently, there has been a great deal of emphasis on “Liberia-born”, birthright citizenship that may not be denied, according to proponents of dual citizenship in our country; that such right is an inalienable right of those born on the soil of the territory of the Republic of Liberia. While this birthright, a priori gift of nature or a natural-right that may not be denied by human society, citizenship right had been, and is, defined, determined and applied by humankind in society, according to modern, socio-political thought and on terms and conditions of the social contract. It is important to note, for information and emphasis, that a birth certificate of country A is, simply and reasonably, means of identification, but lacks reasonable, legal foundation as basis of citizenship right, particularly, where the individual, although born in the county A, but lawful citizen of country B, as in the case of the Public Works Minister.
Moreover, jus Soli(right of or birth on the soil) applies only to those countries, that are signatories to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, that will grant nationality or citizenship to individuals who would, otherwise, be stateless, having been born on their territories or on their ship or airplane. Besides, Jus Soli is observedby a minority of the world’s countries. The United States and Canada are the only large economies that observe birthright citizenship, according to the IMF. Since 2004, no European country grants unconditional birthright citizenship based on Jus Soli.
Dual citizenship is not new to Liberia and Liberians. Characterized by socio-economic and political infidelity to the Liberian nation and public/private dishonesty (corruption), dual citizenship has been in illegal practice in Liberia since the days of founding of the nation by freed slaves in 1847. Almost all Liberian government officials, their families and related, socio-economic and political class (the ruling groups) were and some, today, are dual citizens. But, Dual citizenship is clear violation, not only of the foregoing, basic principles, but also flagrant violations of the nation’s organic law.
Dual Citizenship, Loyalty & National Security
Elsewhere we held that the notion of dual citizenship carries with it the responsibility/obligation to be exclusively loyal to a single state at a time, because the concept of dual citizenship raises questions about which of the countries granting dual citizenships has priority. This question is extremely important, in that, in the event that the two countries involved have opposing, conflicting interests, a condition which, very often, has been the case, especially during these times of numerous, worldwide, ethnic/tribal, religious, economic and political conflicts, it can be a deadly problem where and when a dual citizen is in a highly-placed, policy development, prescription and implementation position of government.
For example, let us imagine, momentarily, an alien, Liberian dual citizen, who has mortgaged, exclusively, his/her loyalty/allegiance/patriotism to a foreign country, to serve as Minister of National Defense in our government; holding cabinet position and in the Executive Mansion office of the nation’s President; Chief Justice, Director of National Security Agency, National Security Advisor to the President, Managing Director & Deputy, member on board of Directors of state enterprises, etc., etc. Apparently, this is going on today, according to the “President’s admission”, in violation of law.
Dual Citizenship & the Liberian Political Economy
In his presentation on behalf of the ULAA-led/sponsored Pro-Dual Citizenship Conference held in Washington, D. C., USA., entitled, “Making The Case For Dual Citizenship in Liberia”, December 7-8, 2012, Liberia’s Dr. George K. Kieh, Professor of Political Science and former Dean of the University of West Georgia, USA, argued that The Political Economy of Liberia provides the context (and bears the awesome responsibility) for why some Liberians migrated to other countries . . . and acquired (naturalized) citizenship”.
Because of the nature, timing, relevance of this academic analysis, we submit, verbatim, the relevant portions of Dr. Kieh’s argument.
“At the base”, Dr. Kieh held, “is a state whose central mission has been to create propitious conditions for the predatory accumulation of wealth by the owners of multinational corporations (e. g. Bong Mines, Firestone, Liberian Agricultural Company, LAMCO) and other foreign-owned businesses . . . and Liberian state managers and their relations (the ruling, political class) . . . The state has visited deprivation and misery on the overwhelming majority of Liberians . . . The related feature is the unfair and unjust distribution of wealth and income”.
“For example, in the 1980s”, he argued, “about 6% of Liberians (members of the ruling, political class) owned and controlled about 65% of the national wealth . . . This was made possible through the instrumentality of the state: The members of the ruling (political) class used the state to engage in the predatory accumulation of wealth through an assortment of illegal means, principally, through the pillaging and plundering of the national treasury. Accordingly, the state has become like a ‘buffet service’ in which those who have state power (ruling, political class) in Liberia at particular historical junctures and their relations ‘eat all they can eat’ for free . . .”
“Another characteristic of the domestic, political Economy”, Dr. Kieh noted, “was (and is) the failure of state managers (ruling, political class) to provide basic ‘public goods’ such as employment, education, healthcare, etc. Also, in order to keep their privileged positions, state managers, as instruments of the ruling class, have used the coercive powers of the state to visit physical violence on both the real and imagined opponents of the particular regime that is power at the time”.
“Cumulatively”, the Political Science Professor concludes that “the vagaries of the political economy led to multi-dimensional crises of under-development, which reflected the failure of the state . . . Concomitantly, state failure resulted in state collapse . . . The terminal phase of state collapse resulted in the military coup on April 12, 1980, and two civil wars in 1989 and 1999. In turn, these violent activities created an environment of insecurity, as the Liberian state became the principal threat to the safety and security of its own citizens”.
Dr. Kieh’s presentation - analysis/conclusion - holds, reasonably, that the historic, Liberian political economy, dominated and controlled by the nation’s ruling, political class or groups, majority of which were dual citizens throughout the 167 years of our existence, bears the major, basic responsibility for the nation’s “multi-dimensional crises of under-development” that culminated into the recent (1989-2003), massive abandonment by Liberian citizens of their native country, Liberia, into foreign lands and taking on naturalized citizenships. This conclusion is consistent with other, keen, historical observers/analysts of the Liberian experience. For, the phrase Liberian ruling class, state mangers, used interchangeably by Dr. Kieh, connote or is synonymous with identification of those select, few citizens who ruled, directed, managed, dominated and controlled, and do so today, both political and economic governance of the Liberian state and known simply as the “ruling class” or “ruling groups”, the overwhelming majority of whose members were and are dual citizens, and to whom the Liberian nation owes “the vagaries of the political economy (that) led to multi-dimensional crises of past history and prevailing realities.
Journalist Toteh observed that “Liberians have had (non-legalized) dual citizenship from day one (when) freed slaves landed on Liberian soil. Almost all Liberian government officials and their families (the ruling class) were and are, today, dual citizens, citizens of other countries and Liberia, especially the developed countries, with the US at the top of the list” (Thomas Toteh, Voice of Liberia, October 19, 2012).
In the light of validated evidence and the celebrated case of Corkrum, Johnson and others, gains from dual citizenship “earned” in Liberia were and are being transferred out of Liberia to buy homes, maintain families and educate children in foreign countries, a macroeconomic detriment to the Liberian economy. Is it not a proper line of inquiry into setting reasonable parameters on dual citizenship in Liberia, in the effort to safeguard the peace, security and vital, political and economic interests of the state and its people?
The United States of America, Liberia’s historic mentor, the great country to which Liberian nation owes its very, founding support and, indeed, survival; and the most powerful nation on earth, caught in the quagmire of dual citizenship with its dangerous tentacles manipulated by dual citizens. The powerful country, the USA, is deeply-plunged in and faced with the excruciating difficulty of dis-entanglement, despite the nation’s academic/intellectual talent/resources; superior, military might; profoundly supreme/persuasive diplomatic, political and economic power.
According to US Journalist/writer, Dan Eden (Dual Citizenship: Loyal to Whom, 2007), dual citizens have been and are placed in strategic, sensitive positions in the US government; and their “strong . . . lobby have powerful influence over US foreign (and domestic) policies”. These “policies . . . can be viewed as in direct opposition to the interests and (national) security of the American people” and nation. “These acts and policies are . . . carried out by US government appointees (dual citizens) who hold powerful positions and who are dual (American-other country) citizens. Since the policies they (dual citizens) support are often exclusively beneficial to other (their original) countries, often to the detriment of America, it has been argued that their (dual citizens’) loyalties are misdirected”.
Moreover, dual citizens (like Liberian) dominate and control, almost all major commercial/industrial, productive capacities of the US political economy. Thus, their economic power influences domestic politics (House & Senate). In the realm of foreign policy, the results are devastating. US policy dealing with Arabs and Islamists have been and are defined and influenced by important dual citizens holding strategic, sensitive positions.
“Today’s conflicts”, again, according to US Journalist Dan Eden, “are centered in the Middle East (and the costly, deadly war in Afghanistan) and the Arab world. While the (also costly, deadly) Iraq war was waged on lies about weapons of mass destruction and revenge for 911, the real reason has emerged as a well-designed, global plan leverage of the original countries of the dual citizens (not to improve the power and leverage of the US). Added to this policy is yet another potential blow to American interests and security – the impending (possible nuclear) war with Iran. This war will be waged for the security of the dual citizens’ original countries (not the US) and will be paid for by the blood of American soldiers and the hard-earned money of American citizens . . .”
Finally, although US and Liberian vital, socio-economic and political interests - the critical dictates of national policies – differ in detail, it is reasonable for Liberia to be informed by and, indeed, should and must learn and benefit from US experience, especially on the impact of the results of dual citizenship. For, it is said that those who ignore the mistakes and related lessons of history are likely to repeat them.
Importantly, during these troubled days of international terrorism, ethnic/tribal, religious, socio-economic, political rivalry, deadly conflicts and the menace of “soldiers-of-fortune”, it is not a rational proposition, in fact, it is dangerous, to entrust the life, well-being and national security into the hands, control and domination of an alien “Liberian”, born on the soil or not, one who has mortgaged, exclusively, his/her allegiance, loyalty and patriotism to a foreign country and known as a dual citizen.