Liberia Welcomes All Persons Of Negro Descent–As Legislature Removes All Anti-Negro Citizenship Laws

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Liberia, established in 1822 by the American Colonization Society (ACS) for the return of freed black slaves to Africa, has dedicated the year 2022 to achieve the ambition and realize the aspirations for which the country was established: to be the home of the Negro race and the “sweet land of liberty”, to which all persons of Negro descent are welcomed.

   Even though Liberia was called the “home of negroes”, laws enshrined in its Constitution restricted blacks from being citizens, even if they were born in the country. For example, in the 1847 Constitution only the settlers were recognized as citizens of Liberia, with certain rights that were not applied to the indigenous groups met on the land. Also, in the 1986 Constitution, only a child born to both Liberian parents becomes an automatic citizen; those with one Liberian parent were subjected to undergo an Oath of Allegiance upon attaining 18 years while those with non-Liberian parents (even though of Negro descend) were required to naturalize before they become Liberians.

   In an economy where the vast majority lives on US$1 a day, one is required to pay US$600 (six hundred United States dollars) for the process of obtaining an Oath of Allegiance from Criminal Court “B” and a whopping US$3,500 (three thousand five hundred United States dollars) for naturalization.

    These laws have caused many children to become stateless, as their parents could not afford the financial burdens attached to the process.

   Besides, when a Liberian citizen travels to another country in seeking a better living condition for himself and his family and obtain a second nationality, he automatically loses his birth right of being a citizen of Liberia, and is hence treated as a foreigner.

   Individuals without any Negro trace are not allowed to hold Liberian citizenship nor own property in Liberia, no matter whether they were born in Liberia or how long they stay.  

   However, the National Legislature has gone one step in amending these draconian laws, which presented a discriminatory and segregate image for the Liberian society. The bill, titled, “An Act to Amend the Alien and Nationality Law”, was passed in joint section on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

   Sections of the Alien and Nationality Law that were amended by the House of Representatives are Part III, Chapter 20, Section 20.1, Chapter 21, Sections 21.30, 21.31, 21.51, 21.52 and 21.55, and Chapter 22, Sections 22.1, 22.2 and 22.4.

   Before the amendment of these sections, Section 20.1 (Citizens of Liberia at Birth) read, “The following shall be citizens of Liberia at birth: (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.

   “A child who is a Liberian 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.”

   Also, Article 28 of the 1986 Constitution read, “Any person, at least one of whose parents was citizen of Liberia at the time of the person’s birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia; provided that any such person shall upon reaching maturity renounce any other citizenship acquired by virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country…”

   In the revised section of the Alien and Nationality law, Section 20.1 was revised as follow: “The following persons shall qualify to be citizens of the Republic of Liberia at birth: (a) A person who is a negro, or of negro descent, born in Liberia, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof at birth; or (b) A person born outside of the Republic of Liberia, whose father or mother (i) was born a citizen of Liberia; or (ii) was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the birth of such person.”

   A new section, Section 20.2, relating to citizenship by adoption, has been added, and reads, “A person under the age of 18 years, whose natural/biological parents are not citizens of Liberia, but who is adopted by a citizen of Liberia, shall automatically become a citizen of Liberia by virtue of such adoption if such person is a Negro or of Negro descent.”

   In the wisdom of the 54th National Legislature, it is necessary for these amendments to the Alien and Nationality Law to be enacted into law if Liberians are to achieve the ambition and realize the aspirations set for 2022 and beyond. “Our country has dedicated itself as the home of the Negro race and the ‘sweet land of liberty’, to which all persons of Negro descent are welcomed.

   “We wish to alert you that Liberia has selected this year as a period to re-connect with all persons of Liberian descent in the diaspora and to welcome all persons of Negro descent to our country to participate in its socio-economic development, to re-discover its cultural heritage and strengthen its values.”

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