By Dr. Michel Sho-Sawyerr
Sierra Leone’s President recently signed the Dual Citizenship bill into law. This bill allows Sierra Leoneans who have acquired the citizenship of another country to retain or reinstate their Sierra Leonean citizenship.
The parliament of Sierra Leone passed the amendments to the 1973 Citizenship Act in November 2006, which would allow Sierra Leoneans to hold dual nationality. However, the bill only becomes law, after the President grants his assent. The Sierra Leone Network (SLN) with some persistence was recently able to contact the President’s office to confirm that, he has now granted his assent to the amendments of the Citizenship Act by signing the document.
The SLN will like to take this opportunity to congratulate the many other compatriots who have been working publicly and behind the scenes for years now on this very important issue. The SLN believes those Sierra Leoneans and friends alike, played a major role in lobbying parliament to sign this bill into law but it was just as important to have the President sign the bill. The SLN’s Advocacy Committee under the able and dynamic leadership of Mr. Oluniyi Robbin Coker, and Amara Omar Kuyateh, the SLN’s President in 2006, worked in close collaboration with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Legislative committee Hon Eddie Turay, and the Speaker of the House, Edmond Cowan, to amend the verbiage of the draft legislation. The SLN together with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Development engaged the services of Mr. Maurice Garber, Esq., to do a legal review of the draft amendments to the 1973 citizenship act and to make recommendations on relevant changes to the draft legislation.
Old Bill vs. New Bill
The original bill contained language stating, “That any person of Sierra Leonean parentage who carries a foreign citizenship and is past the age of majority (age 21) was automatically deemed to have lost their Sierra Leonean Citizenship.”
The amended legislation now allows Sierra Leonean citizens to retain or be automatically restored to their Sierra Leonean citizenship. The draft legislation had previously proposed that those who wished to regain Sierra Leone Citizenship should do so through a cumbersome and subjective application process. Parliament in its wisdom has eliminated that process.
In March 2006, Oluniyi Robbin Coker and then current President of the SLN, Amara Omar Kuyateh, personally visited with the Chairman of the Legislative Committee and Speaker in Sierra Leone. Also present at that meeting was Attorney Kevin Metzger, based in London, UK, Ms Assie Bangura, Mohamed Serry (SLN members based in Freetown), and Dr Peter Turay, of the Sierra Leone Diaspora Network – London, UK.
In addition, the SLN organized a worldwide petition over the Internet enabling Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to protest against the proposed loss of their birth and constitutional rights as Sierra Leonean citizens. Approximately 750 signatures were collected during the duration of the online petition.
This development will open up doors for many Sierra Leoneans to contribute to their motherland in many different ways that was not necessarily feasible in the past. And this opportunity would lend good things to Sierra Leone as more and more of the now new or reinstated citizens will contribute invaluable resources from a combination of cash, productivity and in-kind perspective. A key benefit that accrues to Sierra Leone will be the ability of previously disenfranchised Sierra Leoneans to own free hold property in the Western Area, thus making investment more likely and more secure.
The SLN believes that the collaboration and unity that members of the Diaspora demonstrated during this campaign significantly affected the successful result of the new bill. We in the Diaspora must continue to utilize our influences and know-how to make a positive impact on our beloved country Sierra Leone. Sometimes it just takes the belief that it can be done!
For more information on this topic please visit the SLN website for further reference materials.www.sierraleonenetwork.org Online Petition:http://www.petitiononline.com/4USALONE/petition.html