Liberia: Diaspora Liberians Association Wants Alien And Nationality Law Repealed

Monrovia — Three executives of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) are calling on the legislators to repeal the Alien and Nationality Law, specifically Section 22, which speaks of the 'Loss of Citizenship.'

According to Mssrs. Alfred Sieh, ULAA Board Chair, Frank Carter, National Executive Vice President, ULAA, and Conrade Nyenkan, Executive Board Member, ULAA, the present law on the book is against diaspora Liberians, who because of some circumstances beyond their controls, made them take up citizenships of another nations.

It seems that the amended 1974 Alien and Nationality Law Section 22, which speaks of 'Loss of Citizenship' is what ULAA thinks is a problem for them and needs to be repealed.

Section 22.1 "Acts causing loss of citizenship. From and after the effective date of this title, 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, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person; provided that citizenship shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person under the age of 21 years, unless such person shall fail to enter Liberia to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-third birthday; (b) Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof; or (c) Exercising a free choice to enter or serve in the armed forces of a foreign state, unless, prior to such entry or service, such entry or service is specifically authorized by the President; (d) Voting in a political election in a foreign state or voting in an election or plebiscite to determine the sovereignty of a foreign state over foreign territory; or (e) Making a formal renunciation of Liberian nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of Liberia in a foreign state in such form may be prescribed by the Secretary of State."

Carter disclosed that unfortunately, some Liberians back home, are fearful that their brothers and sisters, who reside in the diaspora, are going to come back some day and take all their "jobs" away and so are discriminating against them that they are not "Liberians" but foreigners. He historicized that this started in the 1950s when foreigners were coming to Liberia and getting lucrative public jobs and there wasn't fear from Liberians until 1974. According to him, this was when ULAA was formed and more Liberians who had gone to school abroad began returning home.

Carter added: "What happened at that time was they wanted to make sure that people are not coming here to take jobs. Unfortunately, at this point, it's Liberians doing it to Liberians. Liberians who are opportune to be here are now saying that since that law was passed, we can start to work with it because we still have fears that our jobs would be taken away."

According to him, only very few Liberians abroad might be thinking about getting a public sector job back home and that most of them have establishments including companies that are directly impacting the lives of their fellow Liberians back home.

The ULAA Board Chairman, Mr. Sieh, who chipped in, gave an example of himself that he was born in Firestone under the rubber trees, was fortunate to leave the country during the war and in exile had to survive, took up the citizenship of his host nation and his parents still know him to be their son but now the law is against him that he is no longer a citizen of the country he was born and grew up in.

Sieh mentioned that Ghanaians, Nigerians or Sierra Leoneans come to Liberia and take up citizenship, but their countries of birth still guarantee them "perpetual citizenship," unlike Liberia.

He and his colleague, Carter, said they have met with some lawmakers concerning repealing the Alien and Nationality Law that will accommodate diaspora Liberians, who have taken up the citizenships of other nations.

This is an advocacy they have been pushing since 2012 and they are hoping to succeed during this President George Weah regime, which has shown interest in their fight for inclusion.

Sieh and Carter's other colleague, Conrade Nyekan, who is a ULAA Board Member and has a law enforcement background, chipped in: "Now, when you look at the naturalization certificate of any Liberian, it carries his place of birth. We accept Liberians home as criminals but we don't want to accept Liberians back home as professionals." He explained that if a Liberian, who has naturalized in the US commits a crime, the US Gov't is definitely going to deport that person back to Liberia; adding: "How can we reconcile us being able to accept our citizens as criminals but Mr. Sieh, who is a professional accountant or Mr. Carter or Nyenkan, who is a law enforcement officer can't come back and contribute to our society."

Even though there hasn't been a visible or known discrimination against diaspora Liberians, Mr. Sieh feared that there might one day come a leader, who will choose to implement the law on the books to the letter.

"I have always said this, the Pharoah, who persecuted the Israelites wasn't the Pharoah who knew Joseph and was favorable to the Israelites. 'There arose another Pharoah, who knew him not,'" he stated. He further detailed that at the moment, the tension isn't high and hard against them; however, he reminiscence how a former president of Tubman University in Maryland County was denied being the Minister of Education because she carried a US citizenship.

Even though Sieh had forgotten the name of the person, but research done by this newspaper shows that it was Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell and the incident occurred in December 2014.

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