by Jackson Clay, Dubawa Fellow
Claim: Persons with Dual Citizenship under the new dual citizenship law of Liberia are allowed to contest for Representatives and Senators.
Nowhere in the new law does it allow dual citizens to be elected as Representatives, and Senators.
Liberia was founded by freed US slaves in 1847 as “a refuge and a haven for freed men of colour”. Its constitution defines black people in the language of the time, as “persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent”.
For years, the issue of dual citizenship in Liberia has been a very critical topic in the country since its post-war era. This is so because, during the country’s over fourteen years of civil unrest, many Liberians fled the country for safety in other countries, particularly in Europe and the Americas and took up those countries’ citizenship for diverse reasons.
The old alien and Nationality law states “A child who is a Liberia citizen by virtue of the provisions of subparagraph (b) of this section shall lose his citizenship unless he has resided in Liberia before attaining his majority or unless when he attains his majority and before attaining the age of 23 he goes before a Liberian consul and takes the oath of allegiance to the Republic of Liberia required of a petitioner for naturalization.”
This law states further “(a) A person who is a Negro, or of Negro descent, born in Liberia and subject to the jurisdiction thereof. (b) A person born outside Liberia whose father (i) was born a citizen of Liberia; (ii) was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the birth of such child, and (iii) had resided in Liberia prior to the birth of such child.”
Upon taking over as President of Liberia in 2018, President George Manneh Weah asserted during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the Liberian constitution was racist, unnecessary and inappropriate and promised to scrap the law that prohibits foreigners from becoming citizens of the country.
His position was further strengthened by a landmark case in 2019 when the Liberian Supreme Court ruled that citizenship is a right that could not be revoked without a trial. However, it is believed that some Liberians, especially the privileged, secretly carry dual passports.
Notwithstanding how crucial this case was, it did not automatically grant Liberians a right to be dual citizens.
There was a continued push for the new law on dual citizens with Liberians in the diaspora playing a huge role. After years of controversy including a referendum to reject the Dual Citizens law in December 2020, the country has finally agreed to a new Dual Citizens law passed in 2022.
There is, however, some simmering controversy over the rights to be accorded the dual citizens of Liberia.
During a radio talk show aired on a local radio station, Okay 99.5FM, Wednesday, August 10, 2022, Montserrado County District #16 Representative Dixon Seboe claimed that under the new amended alien and nationality law of Liberia, persons with dual citizenship are allowed to contest for Representatives and senators but cannot be speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate.
The claim was made in the 14 minute of the show and was carried live on the station’s Facebook page with over two thousand viewers and more than one hundred and fifty comments. This show is one of the most widely listened to shows in the country.
Given how controversial this case has been over decades and the premium attention it has garnered owing to the amendment of the law, DUBAWA decided to investigate the claim made by Representative Dixon Seboe.
This Fact Checker combed through the provisions of the old law which the amendment sought to change. The old laws include Part III, Chapter 20, Section 20.1; Chapter 21, Sections 21.30, 21.31, 21.51 & 21.52 and Chapter 22, Sections 22.1, 22.1 & 22.4 of the Aliens and Nationality Law of the Liberian Code of Law Revised, Vol. II.
DUBAWA then went further to look at the new amendment passed by Parliament to ascertain if the claim by the Representative was true.
Part of the new amendment can be accessed in this news report with the relevant portions of the new law quoted as follows;
“A Liberian citizen who holds citizenship for another country shall not be eligible for any elective public office while still a citizen of another country,” the legislature said in the repeal of the Aliens and Nationality Law.
“If such a person desires to contest, the person must renounce the citizenship of the other country at least one year before applying to the National Elections Commission (NEC) to contest with documentary evidence of such renunciation from the country and filed with a circuit court in Liberia.”
“Also, a Liberian citizen who holds the citizenship of another country must not be eligible for appointment to the public offices of Minister of Finance and Development Planning; Minister of Defense, and Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.”
As can be seen, the amended law prohibits those with dual citizenship from occupying an elected office and from becoming Minister of Defense, Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and Minister of Finance in the country.
The new law has received massive media reviews and reportage as can be seen here and here.
Checks by DUBAWA into the amended law do not support the claim made by Representative Dixon Seboe. While the amended law grants Liberians power to hold dual citizenship it does not allow dual citizens to occupy elected office and other sensitive positions.