Publication Date

Spring 5-21-2015

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Kanthie Athukorala

Abstract

This paper is an inquiry into Liberia’s opposition to dual citizenship and the impact of such opposition on reconciliation and over-all development of the country. The laws governing citizenship in most African countries, as in most countries in the world, allowed for the citizens of those countries to obtain citizenship in other countries and at the same time retain nationality in their countries of origin. Liberia founded by free slaves, still has in place an extreme position that allows for only those “of Negro descent” to be citizens from birth. So it doesn’t matter how long a person of “Non-Negro descent” lives or was born in Liberia, there is a zero chance of becoming a Liberian citizen. According to the Liberian Constitution, a natural born citizen loses his/her citizenship once he/she takes on the nationality of another country. Ironically, foreign nationals of African descent, from any part of the world, can naturalize as Liberians and maintain nationality of their countries of origin, but the same is impermissible for natural born Liberians.

The authors of the Liberian Constitution did not envision that Liberians would flee to other countries and take on the nationality of those countries as a result of civil war. Nor did they envision people of non-Negro descent migrating to Liberia with the quest of acquiring Liberian citizenship. Now, those realities have culminated themselves into pressing issues that are drilling wedge between Liberians at home (in Liberia) and Liberians living in the Diaspora. Diaspora Liberians see themselves as victims of unforeseen circumstances, but Liberians residing at home (Liberia) think Liberians who acquired citizenship in other countries are traitors, who should have nothing to do with the homeland.

This research was guided by questions that sought the participants’ opinions on the prohibition of dual citizenship in the Liberian Constitution, their opinion about the law in regards to Liberians in the diaspora returning. This study employed the mixed methods approach to gather information. Twenty-five Liberians participated in the study (14 participants in the US and 11 participants in Liberia). Data collected during the survey and focus group were transcribed and coded into themes that arose, resulting into this written report.

This research found, on the one hand, that removing the prohibition on dual citizenship from the Liberian Constitution would encourage Liberian descents abroad return to their homeland with resources and knowledge acquired in the Diaspora, and would cause Liberia to experience, as one respondent puts it, “brain gain” as opposed to “brain drain,” and the siphoning away of experts and technicians to more attractive markets, but they also called for cautionary restrictions on property acquisition and participation in governance. But others flatly spoke against amending the law in favor of dual citizenship.

Disciplines

African Studies | Immigration Law

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