As debates about dual citizenship continue to rage, people are wrongly thinking that Liberia is practicing a form of apartheid. To believe that Liberia is practicing racism is to accuse the victims of racism of practicing racism.
In his recent Annual Message, President George Weah blamed the Liberian Constitution, which he swore to protect and uphold, because he believed it was racist and out of date. The President said that the racist clause in the Liberian Constitution was justified in the 19th century but no longer justified in 21st century. In other words he was implying during his Annual Message that there can be specific periods of time in history when racism can be justified.
Denying Liberian citizenship to non-Negro people in the 19th century is acceptable to President Weah, but unacceptable now because “the great object of forming these Colonies (Liberia), being to provide a home for the dispersed and oppressed children of Africa, and to regenerate and enlighten this benighted continent, none but persons of colour shall be admitted to citizenship in this Republic.”
The basis for citizenship being accorded to only people of African descent is just as justified now as it was before, because the conditions are still the same today as they were in the 19th century. Today, those who benefit from the Liberian Economy are mostly non-Negroes. It is therefore just as important to keep this clause in the Liberian Constitution until the Liberians are economically empowered, otherwise the economic condition of the majority of Liberians, which is already bad, will become worse. There is already economic apartheid going in Liberia at a time when non-Negroes are not citizens, how much more when they become citizens.
Liberia has a long way to go before its citizens can achieve economic empowerment. Once this has been done, citizenship would then be open to non-Negro people. This is the sentiment expressed in the 1847 Constitution. To say otherwise is to betray the spirit of Liberia’s Constitution.
The framers of the 1986 Constitution were not stupid when they retained within the 1986 Constitution what George Weah now considers a racist clause. What is puzzling is how a President who purports to have a Pro-Poor Agenda would ignore the basis on which the Republic of Liberia was founded, which was for uplifting of people of African descent. Has this been achieved in the 21st? If not, then why is it that the Pro-Poor President is in such a haste in pushing for the drafting of amendments to the Constitution to be put for referendum? Why should the President advocate to this extent on behalf of Lebanese and Indian people, when the majority of Liberians are still languishing in abject poverty?
There is another dimension to the citizenship debate that the President is not even taking into consideration or giving prominence to, which is the citizenship for natural-born Liberians, who, during the Liberian Civil War, took asylum in other countries and subsequently became citizens in those countries and, because of that, lost their Liberian citizenship. The Government is not even taking up their issues but is only pre-occupied with citizenship for Lebanese and Indians.
Nobody, not even the President of Liberia, can accuse Liberia of practicing racism. The truth is that, 170 years after its independence, Liberians are still victims of economic racism because Lebanese and Indians are still the beneficiaries of the wealth of the Nation. Anyone who does not believe that Liberians are marginalized in their own country need to obtain information about the concession agreements that Liberia has entered into, which currently benefit foreign companies and continue to marginalize Liberians who are the true owners of the wealth.