By Ernest S. Maximore
What Value System Being Diluted?
Article 27(b) of the Liberia Constitution read thus: “In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.”
In a layman, plain, simple and strict interpretation, when you are not a Negro or Negro descent, you cannot or will not be able to help and/or preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character. Liberian Government is simply saying to hell to any other races and the rapid global and mutual cultural transmission and osmosis! They do not have any cultural goodies that worth emulation and enabling Liberia attaining any of those valuable distinctiveness. Liberia is independent and its sovereignty and cultural values should not be ruined, degenerated and infused by the immoderation and unrestrained lifestyle and other unwarranted foreign manipulations, control and dominance that come with multi-race.
Those could be fear factors Liberian constitutional writers probably had, but are those fears reasonable in this day and age to the extent of constitutionally alienating another race? Where is the moral ground to condemn Hitler, who physically alienated, dehumanized and nearly eliminated the Jews from the surface of the earth? Oh, this comparison is unmatched-probably so, this is constitutional alienation, but is this not indirectly humiliating the entire white race? Be the judge.
Are there measurable or visible Liberian cultural value, customs, lifestyle, social and economic traditions that are inseparable from the Western lifestyle, particularly the United States of America? All the original founders, presidents and elites of Liberia boast of being from America.
Putting it truly, Liberia is a copycat, “step son”, “grandson” of Uncle Sam, America. Everything from political and apolitical is almost-nearly practically carbon copy from America, although misguidedly implemented.
From Liberia’s Pledge of Allegiance(only the name “Liberia” is different),three-color Liberian flag-red, white and blue, with Stars and Stripes, to holiday celebration, including Christmas, Easter, New Year, and Thanksgiving, are all copycats of the United States of America customs and value system. American fashion, style, design, haircuts, voice and accent mimicking are also inclusive and domineering in Liberia.
One wonders, what else is there in Liberia to “preserve” and uphold from non-Negro? Even what is thought to be a unique Liberian custom “snapshape” handshake originated from the United States of America. Alan Hufman describes this handshake in his book, “Mississippi in Africa; The Saga of Prospects Hill Plantation and their Legacy in Liberia Today” as a “combination of every other handshake in the world, with a twist, the traditional grasp, then something like a soul-shake with a finger snap off of the other man’s index finger at the end.”
The Irony of the Already Implicit Reality
Here are the ironies. In the book, “Liberia-America Footprint in Africa, Making the Cultural, Social and Political Connection,” Jesse Mongrue writes that ten Liberian presidents were born in the [“white men”] country, United States of America, one was born in Barbados, the Caribbean, and another born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, making it the total of 12 Liberian presidents born outside of Liberia. This further exposes the contradiction of Liberia all “Negro” citizenship status.
More founding Liberian Presidents were born in Caucasians countries. Some Liberian current public officials are citizens of other countries around the world, including “white” countries. To keep their jobs, most of them denied citizenship of other countries, but the reality is they traveled with officials Liberian passports and hide their foreign passports. They feel happy being citizens of other countries around the world, benefiting from the education, healthcare , infrastructure, better system and control and good lives from those countries, but are racist towards Caucasians, who contentedly want to be citizens in Liberia.
Some Caucasians are born in Liberia, speak local dialects, initiated in traditional Liberian societies, culturally entrenched in the Liberian ways of life, attended colleges and universities in Liberia, intermarried, established businesses , yet they are not allowed to be considered Liberians, because of the color of their skins. They are whites, not Negro or Negro descent that is the only “offense” they commit. Liberia even excludes Indians, Chinese, Malaysians, and Lebanese because accordingly they are not of Negro decent.
As developed and industrialized as the United States and some Western and Asian countries are, they recognize the existence of dual nationality.
Paradoxically, though, while the Liberian Government is excluding other races, the excluded races can lease a land or home for 100 years plus. The same excluded races are the ones controlling more than 95% of the economy, and are principally responsible for bringing the now infamous $16 billion in foreign direct investment. A count of the more than 100 concessions and contracts signed for the $16 billion show more than 99.99% is from the excluded races.
So sad and logically unparalleled, constitutionally intolerable, humanly humiliating, that Liberians who married white persons could be citizens of their white partners’ countries, when they(Liberians) choose to do so, but the white husband or wife cannot be citizen of Liberia. Any undertaking that could have helped Liberia’s growth thorough the inter-racial marriage apparently ended up at the discouragement table. Who wants to put all his/her resources in a country that inherently opposes white citizenship?
In fact another distressing contrast and embarrassment is when a natural born Liberian married black person, from any part of the world and becomes naturalized citizen of his/her spouse’s country, the black person being married to can become a naturalized citizen of Liberia, but the natural born Liberian will either have to conceal his Liberian passport in his luggage while entering Liberia airport or do the “business as usual. No dual citizenship for natural born Liberians, but dual citizenship for naturalized black persons anywhere from around the world.
Amendment 14, Section 1 of the United States Constitution did not proffer any racist provision. It unequivocally uses “all persons”, as opposed to racist Liberia’s “only Negro or Negro descent” provision:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
For Liberia Constitution, Ghanaians, Nigeria, Ivoirians, Sierra Leoneans, South Africans-the whole of Africa and beyond, they can be naturalized Liberians, if they choose to; as if the excesses of illegal drug trade, money laundering, widespread statutory rapes, aiding and abetting the loots of our resources, fake medications, dubious companies, willful disregard of the law because of connection at the echelon of power and authority, are considered imported cultural values from some of our Africans or Black counterparts from the African Continent or other parts of the world. You be the judge.
Single Citizenship in Liberia: The Paradox
Why Liberian authority delaying passing dual citizenship bills also? Why wasting so much time passing this bill when it is foolproof that countless numbers of current and past Liberian public officials have dual citizenship but are buried in conspiracy of silence and secrecy. Are they going to conspire against themselves, and suffer the consequences of not pushing hard to get the bill pass? This is the only sycophancy that is self-destructive .Watch up, if this is a political ploy, it will re-bounce to the very same makers in the future.
Again, Liberia is United States “step child” and traditional buddy. Sorry, no country around the world with such closed tie and “family ship” with Liberia, except the United States, so more examples are from United States. The United States recognizes dual nationality. In the U.S. Department of State regulation on dual citizenship (7 FAM 1162), the Supreme Court of the United States says that dual citizenship is a "status long recognized in the law" and that "a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both. The mere fact, he asserts the right of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other," (Kawakita v. U.S., 343 U.S. 717) (1952).
In Schneider v. Rusk 377 U.S. 163 (1964), the US Supreme Court ruled also that a naturalized U.S. citizen has the right to return to his native country and to resume his former citizenship, and also to remain a U.S. citizen even if he never returns to the United States.
Further, the United States is encouraging foreigners to come to America and become Green Card holders and eventually citizens. Each year the US grants a million foreigners to enter and work in America through their work visa program (H1-B visas), which has the paved the way for millions of capable and experience foreigners to obtain green cards and citizenship in America. European nations are also doing the same.
This H1-B visa is the largest source of brain drain from the third countries, as the best and brightest in the third world have left their impoverished countries (including Liberia) to take advantage of getting rich in America. Ghana and other progressive nations in Africa saw what America and Europe were doing so they too decided to compete for competent and capable manpower, by introducing dual citizenships and removed barriers to naturalization. Today, Kenyans, Ghanaians, Zambians, Botswana , Namibians etc. are all competing with America and Europe, because dual citizenships and removal of barriers to citizenships have encouraged their natural born to return home and contribute positively to the growth and development of their countries.
Sadly, a post war nation like Liberia that cries for “lack of capacity” should have been ahead of Ghana in the dual citizenship game but it is lagging behind, because of backward thinking. Thousands of capable and competent Liberians are in the USA, Europe, Asia and other parts of Africa. They are not going to give up their citizenship just to come and work in Liberia. It is the Government of Liberia that should be begging them to come home and assumed some risks, but that can only be done with a sweetener such as allowing dual citizenship.
Natural born Liberians who hold foreign citizenships and persons of non-negro descent will continue to build mansions in America, Europe and other countries because they have no reason to keep incomes earned in Liberia, after all they are not citizens. Lebanese, Malaysians, Indians, Americans and Europeans will also continue to repatriate all their incomes back to their countries of citizenship, because they have nothing that holds them to Liberia. Citizenship could make them to have some lasting connections to Liberia.
The Liberian law implicitly agrees that Liberians in the Diaspora, whether they are citizens or not for any country, whether they married white or black persons ,they can stay remit money to Liberia to build beautiful homes that bury defaced homes, establish businesses that help to provide some employment for a huge unemployed Liberian population, feed family members and friends, provide professional and educational support to under-staffed teaching staff at universities, colleges, vocational schools, etc. But those are sheer tips of the icebergs of goodies from a single citizenship. More is better with double citizenship. The more Liberia gives, the more Liberia will be opened and exposed to lot of opportunities in the fast changing global world. The thriftily Liberia gives, the very less at the bottom it will continue to get.
According to World Bank Report, remittances to Liberia in 2011 were estimated at $360m, the equivalent of 31% of Liberia’s GDP and more than half the amount Liberia received in aid that year. Taken as a share of GDP, Liberia is the world's second-highest remittance recipient, behind Tajikstan, and the figure is predicted to have increased to $378m in 2012. If Liberians with single-citizenship remitting such amount, more will be done when dual citizenship is consummate into law.
In 2015, the Tanzania Foreign Affairs Minister, Benard Membe, stated that Ghanaians in the Diaspora annually contribute $2.1 billion, while Nigerians and Kenyans in the Diaspora annually contribute $3.1 billion and $1.6 billion respectively. All these countries have one thing in common, dual citizenship.
Different Time, Different Circumstance
It was President William R. Tolbert that drafted and passed the Alien and Naturalization Law that is today denying Liberian citizenship to those Liberians who have acquired another citizenship. See, Chapter 22. LOSS OF CITIZENSHIP, Alien and Nationality Law - Title 4 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised. Approved: May 15, 1973, Amendments. Approved: May 9, 1974. This was 1973 and 1974. That was the 20th Century and that was at the height of the Cold War. We are now in the 21st Century and we still believe that the conditions that existed during the Tolbert’s administration are still relevant. Times have change and so has the global competitive environment, where nations are competing capital investment and qualified manpower.
Hope Liberia learn from its long-established soul mate, the United States of America. Even closer countries, including Nigeria, Togo, Tunisia, Morocco, Lesotho, Ghana, Cote d, voire, Benin, Burkina Faso and Namibia being on the go for dual citizenship while some sanctioned white citizenship.
It is about time Liberia rises above this speculative and obsolete fear of white people taking land and property or owning more land and properties. Liberians have own more undeveloped lands some of which, converted to huge bushes, garbage field, domicile of termite, rats, mosquitoes, etc. for decades. In fact, if the fear is actually to lose land and economy positions, Liberians have lost that long time ago. “Non-negro descendants” (such as Lebanese, Malaysians, Chinese, and Lebanese) collectively control more than 95 percent of the Liberian economy and Liberians have leased land to them at times for 100 years.
The President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, admitted appointing many Liberians with American and European citizenships. Even the President stand accused over and over again of being a US citizen, but this has not been proven. Basically, the political leadership and economic elites in Liberia hold another citizenship elsewhere in the world. Nothing is going to change that basic fact, unless the Liberian government is prepared to spend millions of dollars to investigate, prosecute and jailed all of its officials who all citizens of another country. So why have a law that is by its nature unenforceable because of prevailing realities.
Instead of a long drawn out constitutional process to amend the Constitution to allow for dual citizenship, the Legislature can simply and quickly amend Chapter 22. LOSS OF CITIZENSHIP of the Alien and Nationality Law - Title 4 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised. This is how simple as it gets. Sadly for 10 years the President and the Legislature have talked about amending this section of the law but it has not been done, while confirmation of presidential appointees with foreign citizenships and passage of concessions and contracts have been done speedily without much deliberations and vetting of credentials.
About the Author: Ernest S. Maximore is a Liberian journalist, a poet, and a lawyer. He earned B.A Mass Communications and Bachelor of Law (L.L.B.) from the University of Liberia and MBA (concentration in Public Administration) from Strayer University, Virgina, USA. He can be reached at email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org