Opinion: Citizenship status in Liberia

photo: constitutionnet.org

In my opinion, we need to take a look at the laws granting a person citizenship status in Liberia.  It is obvious the current ones we have on the books for non-natural born and dual citizenships are working against the majority of ordinary Liberians in favor of people in positions of power and the business community; writes Jarwinken Wiah

This is because the current arrangement for citizenship allows those in positions of power to get money and other resources from the business community in exchange for favor at the detriment of the country and majority of the Liberian people.  This is also preventing needed revenue generation and other resources for genuine development for Liberia. These revenues are ending up in the pockets of those in positions of power.

Taking another look at Liberian citizenship law is one of the key ways in taking on learning and the huge achievement gaps, human resource development, empowerment opportunities, modern infrastructure, road network nationwide, communications, and rule of law in the country.

It is clear those who are benefiting the most, from the current arrangement will fiercely criticize this piece. Those who are also victims of the indoctrination would also think doing so will mean otherwise, will as well oppose.

The question we must ask ourselves is…how this current arrangement benefits the country and what is the evil granting citizenship to others that want to contribute towards the development of the country patriotically?  Yes, patriotism is what we need most to get us where we need to be.  We need to look at both sides. From what we have been doing, what have we got in return as a nation?     

In nearly 170 years, I will argue that the country as a whole and majority of the Liberian people have not benefited. The very people we oppose to have citizenship are the ones controlling our resources and government. They are the most powerful. Doesn’t it say that something is wrong? I don’t know about you, but I know something is wrong somewhere along the line.   

The fact is this current citizenship law is only enriching the people in position of power and the business community.  I believe it is a contract between those in position of power and the business community. It is a turn for any new group of individuals ascending to positions of power to join companionship with the business community in depriving majority of the Liberian population better livelihoods. The only change the business community experience is working with new faces in positions of power. 

Who are the real citizens of Liberia? Are they those who are bearing the nomenclature and suffering in poverty or those without the citizenship nomenclature who are benefiting most from the resources and controlling the decision makers? 

Most of these business institutions are signing 100-year lease agreements, which are also renewable continuously without obligations in term of development to the communities and residents in areas they operate and the entire country. They are instead obligated to those in position of power.  For the reason that those in position of power are benefiting, they continue to tell us it is evil to grant citizenship to those non-natural born, particularly those perceived as white people.    

I believe the only way to bring about true developments  in Liberia is to revisit these laws  as they have not worked for the good  of the country in nearly 170 years. Revisiting these laws is the only true way we can bring about building super highways, railroads for transport trains, good hospitals and schools, communications, pipe borne water to all parts of the country, malls. This will also bring about inventions in our society. This will make Liberia to be a productive society. How do we expect one to put his money in a country or sign up to die for it if he or she is not a citizen? 

 I also think this current arrangement is a double standard because we want to become citizens in the white man’s country and we prevent them from becoming citizens in our country.  We complain about these same kind of treatments or restrictions when we experience them in other countries and refer to them as discrimination and racism. Why don’t we feel the same way when we do them to others? 

 The fact is our mindset regarding the issue of citizenship is a double standard, particularly on the part of those in position of power who are benefiting the most from this arrangement. The revenues and other resources those in positions of power get from this arrangement allow them to send their family members to developed countries to get better education and healthcare while majority of the population is wrongfully deprived. 

We all need to recognize there is no history of any developed country including the United States that emerged on the face of the earth industrialized. Assimilation and competing ideas have been doing the tricks.

Moreover, the good thing for Liberia and the rest of the poorer countries is that we are seeing the benefits of assimilation and service oriented delivery governance structure.  For this reason, I believe we must open up our arms to adapting these same changes based on equal empowerment opportunities based on competing ideas and patriotic conducts outside ethnicity, religion, race, sex, and birth place of origin. 

This is the best thing to do in my opinion and the way to accomplish this is to put in place, for example, laws that will specify citizenship obligations in the same way it is being done in the United States.

South Africa for example, which is the most developed country in Africa allowed citizenship for both whites and blacks after the end of the Apartheid regime or minority White rule in South Africa.  Compare that with Zimbabwe that did not follow the footstep of South Africa. The differences between the two countries in terms of livelihoods improvement is obvious.      

We have been indoctrinated or conditioned to think and believe that opening up citizenship to members of the business community including Lebanese, Indian, and Fulani as an evil undertaking. We have also been conditioned to believe that dual citizenship for natural-born Liberians is also an evil. 

During my one-month visit to Liberia in February, I sought the opinions of several people, including some of my former colleagues in the media.  From the responses, the general belief about granting citizenship to Lebanese, Indian, and Fulani will mean selling out the country. In other words, the common belief is that they will buy and own all the land in Liberia.  For dual citizenship, the common belief is that when a dual citizen commits a crime such as embezzling money he or she will flee the country. The second thought is that dual citizens will take all the jobs from non-dual citizens. 

So I asked, who own most of the beautiful buildings and businesses in Liberia? Overwhelmingly, the respondents named the Lebanese, Indian, and Fulani communities. I also asked, which natural-born Liberian can easily win a court case against any Lebanese, Indian, and Fulani businessman or any of their entity in court of law in Liberia?  The respondents said it is highly unlikely.  Then I also asked, how many children of Lebanese, Indian, and Fulani business communities are selling cold water and other petty items in the heavy traffic as means of livelihoods?  The respondents also said highly unlikely.  

Regarding the dual citizenship, I asked, how many non-dual citizens have been brought to successful justice for embezzlement of the country’s funds?  They were unable to cite one case. I also asked, where is Chucky Taylor, the son of former President Charles Taylor? He is jailed in America, they responded. Was it because of a crime he committed in Liberia or in America? In Liberia, they answered. 

 When Chucky killed a taxi driver for killing his dog in a car accident, was he arrested in Liberia? The responses were also no.  Why do you think, he was arrested by the American Government when he did not commit the crime in America? The respondents did not know why.  Then I said well, it is because Chucky is also an American citizen. For those of you who have doubts about dual citizenship, that is your answer.  

In my opinion, the question is not who becomes citizen, it is patriotism, good governance structure that is service oriented in response to the needs of the people, rule of law, transparency and accountability. 

 

Jarwinken Wiah is executive director of the US-based Emancipation Movement of Liberia (EMOL)

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