By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
Remember when the born and bred Sierra Leonean Alie Kabbah’s American passport was seized by the CID? What happened afterwards? The United States’ government, through its embassy in Freetown, arm-twisted and browbeat the Sierra Leone government into returning Mr Kabbah’s American passport even though he was facing charges of bigamy in a Sierra Leonean court of law! So imagine if Mr Kabbah had committed heinous crimes against the state, he would have gone scot free because of his dual citizenship.
That is just one example from the thousand-and-one examples of how Western countries can meddle into the sovereign affairs of Third World countries when those Third World countries’ citizens are also citizens of those Western countries. Take Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, for example. When she was in opposition and under house arrest, the British government repeatedly meddled in Myanmar’s sovereignty simply because Aung San Suu Kyi has a British passport. And though she is now leader of the ruling party, yet she can’t be the president as the Myanmar Constitution forbids her because she has children who are foreign nationals!
And that is why I love the Philippines. In that country, it is law that Filipinos with dual citizenship should first disown their foreign citizenship under oath before they can be eligible for any elective office. Also, in the Philippines Filipinos who want to gain employment in Government institutions have to first forsake their foreign citizenship.
And in Algeria Article 73, Section 1 of their current 1996 Constitution provides that, “To be eligible to the Presidency of the Republic, the candidate should have, solely, the Algerian nationality by origin…” And in Nigeria and Ghana, I don’t think citizens of those two nationalistic countries will ever vote for anyone as president if s/he is known for having citizenship of another country! The reason being that, such a person cannot be a committed president because s/he has an alternative country to run to at any time there is fire on the mountain.
Even Australia has embarked on weeding out politicians with dual citizenship. In late November last year, that country’s High Court ruled that five of seven politicians were violating the constitution even though they claimed to be ignorant of the fact that they held dual citizenship. Four were born in Australia, while one moved from Canada when she was a baby. But the law is the law. And even the former deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, was not left in the purge. He was thrown out of parliament because he was found to be a dual citizen of New Zealand. He had to rescind his other citizenship before he became eligible again for a by-election which he won.
According to Reuters news agency, Mr Joyce was one of the “Citizenship Seven” whose eligibility to sit in parliament was thrown into doubt when it was found out that they were dual citizens, a status that is barred for politicians under Australia’s constitution to prevent split allegiances.
So what is the hue and cry over the ruling All People’s Congress (APC)’s decision to make Sierra Leoneans more nationalistic and committed to their country by resurrecting Section 76(1) Act No. 6 of the 1991 Constitution? For starters, that Section states that, “no person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament (a) if he is a naturalized citizen of Sierra Leone or is a citizen of a country other than Sierra Leone having become such a citizen voluntarily or is under a Declaration of Allegiance to such a country”. The catch here is that if you are not eligible to be a Member of Parliament means you are ineligible to stand for the Presidency. And if you are disqualified to stand for the Presidency means you can’t be appointed either a government Minister or Deputy Minister in Sierra Leone.
I believe the intention of the drafters of the 1991(Peter Tucker) Constitution was to have a President, Vice President or a Member of Parliament with an undivided loyalty to Sierra Leone. An elected representative that will only see and regard Sierra Leone as both home and country. And indeed their fears were right. For we have seen, or known of, hundreds of cases in which Sierra Leoneans have been calling their naturalized countries “home” while Sierra Leone for them is just a “country”. During the eleven years’ rebel war, most—if not all—of those who have made “Declaration of Allegiance” to either Britain or the United States of America didn’t even join our national army or volunteer as Civil Defence Forces or even as vigilantes to defend their country. But they joined either the British or American army with alacrity—and were, and still are, ready to defend those countries even with their blood.
That is why the resuscitation of Section 76(1) of the 1991 Constitution by the nationalistic ruling APC government should be regarded as an act of political puritanism. If you want to serve Sierra Leone in any political capacity; you should be an unadulterated Sierra Leonean! There shouldn’t be anything like half-Sierra Leoneans in our corridors of power. That Half-ness (is this another One Dropian dropped word?) is what this Section is trying to discourage just as how Australia’s constitution is not a big fan of dual citizenship “to prevent split allegiances”.
Even in the holy Bible it is stated in Matthew 6:24 that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” If you want to serve Sierra Leone; serve Sierra Leone. But you cannot pretend to love Sierra Leone while you have either Britain or the United States of America at heart!
But Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora might want to ask why now at the eleventh hour? Well, it doesn’t mean that if you have not been abiding by the biblical Ten Commandments in your youth you can’t abide by them in your old age! If Section 76(1) of the 1991 Constitution was not implemented for the last 21 years doesn’t mean it is not in Sierra Leone’s law books. The ruling APC just dust it from the shelf where it was shelved.