Alvin Teage Jalloh
Attorney & Counselor at Law
320 MacDade Blvd,
Suite 105Collingdale, PA 19023
Office: 484-494-8821Cell: 267-934-6603
December 14, 2007
The Honorable Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of the Republic of Liberia
The Executive Mansion
P.O. Box 9001
Capitol Hill, Monrovia Republic of Liberia
Ref: support for the proposed citizenship retention act
Dear Madame President: I write this letter to respectfully request your support for the Citizenship Retention Act which was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 24, 2007, by Honorable Armah Sarnor and Honorable Vaforay Kamara. Acting on behalf of Liberians worldwide, proponents of this Act are seeking to protect all Liberians against the involuntary loss of their Liberian citizenship. This is an important issue that affects a large number of Liberians, particularly those living abroad as well as the families, friends, and communities that they were forced to leave behind during the years of armed violence and persecution in our nation. The introduction of this historic Act represents another important step in our nation’s promise to formulate its laws in a way that is relevant to the innovations of modern life.
The proposed Act is currently before the House Judiciary Committee and is ripe for debate. As counsel for Non-Resident Liberians, I would greatly appreciate your assistance in influencing the 52nd National Legislature to make this Act a legal reality. As you are aware, Madame President, the many years of armed violence and persecution in our nation forced more than 900,000 Liberians to flee their homes and seek refuge in other countries. As time past and while maintaining strong ties with Liberia, a sizeable number of these Liberians got married to citizens of other countries; gave birth to thousands of children in their host countries; became naturalized citizens in their host countries; and took employment in the armed forces of their host countries. All of these Liberians have a right to retain their status as Liberian citizens, regardless of what status they have established in their host countries. The principle of equal rights for all Liberians is one of the central themes of our democracy. Any law, therefore, that treats a Liberian as a non-citizen or second-class citizen, is detrimental to the system of social equality as advocated by this government. This problem is best illustrated by the government’s stance on the issue of loss of Liberian citizenship. Under the existing practice, the due process requirement under Article 20(a) of the Liberian Constitution is ignored.
As a result, Liberians who become naturalized citizens of another country or serve in the armed forces of another country without prior approval from the President of Liberia are treated as if they voluntarily relinquished their Liberian citizenship. For these Liberians, however, this was not the intended result. Liberians did not lose their citizenship by being forced into exile. Consequently, the government’s position on this issue is punitive in nature and undermines the principle of equal rights for all Liberians. Now more than ever as your administration seeks to encourage Liberians at home and abroad to adjust their lives and make substantial contributions to our nation’s development, such a practice will have a daunting effect on Liberians, and make them less inclined to lend their support to the government. In addition, if your administration were to embrace a practice that eviscerates the due process requirement under Article 20(a) of the Liberian Constitution, it would be viewed by many Liberians as a betrayal of your legacy as President of Liberia and as a retaliatory measure penalizing Liberians who chose to do what they could to provide for their families. We acknowledge the positive steps the government is taking at home and abroad, and believe the government can broaden its focus to address the retention of citizenship issue, an issue that is of great concern to Liberians worldwide.
The proposed Citizenship Retention Act, presently before the House of Representatives, is designed to protect all Liberians against involuntary losses of their Liberian citizenship when they become naturalized citizens of another country or serve in the armed forces of another country without prior approval from the President of Liberia. The proposed Act recognizes that Liberians should not be penalized for being forced into exile. It further recognizes that protecting all Liberians against involuntary losses of their Liberians citizenship is a global necessity that will benefit Liberia. We believe the proposed Act is constitutional and, when passed into law, will help to create a more robust Liberian society and enable Liberia to better compete with the growing number of countries, including West African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo that have and continue to benefit from their citizens having dual or multiple citizenship. Madame President, the interests of our nation and people have expanded beyond our territorial borders.
According to UNMIL statistics, there are about 450,000 Liberians living in the United States and Canada, another 250,000 more living in Western Europe, and thousands more living in other parts of the world. Liberia is at a remarkable junction in its history! Never before has Liberia had such impressive number of contacts outside its territorial borders; never before have so many Liberians been in positions to influence the policies of foreign governments so as to benefit Liberia; and never before has the Liberian government had such an awesome opportunity to tap the investment potential and expertise of Liberians who acquire citizenship of another country or serve in the armed forces of another country.
Throughout our nation's history, when faced with changing global realities, we have acted to make our laws relevant by expanding our democracy and empowering individuals. We have, for example, gone from a restrictive definition of citizenship that treated a large number of Liberians as subjects, to a more inclusive definition that embraces all Liberians regardless of tribal, religious, or political affiliations. We have gone from a male-based qualification of the right to vote, to a gender-neutral definition that permits both Liberian males and females to vote. And we have, among other recent accommodations, suspended the ten-year residency clause in the nation's constitution to allow more Liberians to run for the office of President of Liberia. Having lived abroad, Madame President, you can fully appreciate the many benefits such as better education, training, and job opportunities that Liberians encounter in other countries. By taking full advantage of these resources, Liberians are able to acquire the skills necessary to enhance their quality of life and also provide for the needs of their families, friends and communities in Liberia. Their efforts to enrich themselves and their country should be met with praise and not diminished by the threat of the loss of their Liberian citizenship.
By passing the Citizenship Retention Act, the government will assure Liberians worldwide that they are valuable members of the Liberian society and also encourage them to continue to contribute to the socio-economic advancement of their country. Madame President, as you prepare to deliver your 2008 State of the Republic address before a joint session of the 52nd National Legislature, we look forward to your support in getting this monumental Act enacted into law. Thank you for your time and consideration. May God continue to richly bless you as you lead our nation from a post-conflict status into a stable, prosperous, and leading democracy!
Alvin Teage Jalloh, Esq.
Counsel for Non-Resident Liberians
On December 14, 2007, Non-Resident Liberians contacted the offices of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to take stand on the issue of Dual Citizenship in Liberia. Few hours later, a short email was received acknowledging receipt of the letter to the President. In that email, this group was told that the President will review the letter and take appropriate action as soon as possible. For the benefit of over 1500 signatories and the Liberian public, we are making the copy of this letter public.
Sam K Zinnah
Chairman, Non-Resident Liberians