Dual Citizenship and Dual Currency

CRC Chairperson interacts with Citizens
CRC Chairperson interacts with Citizens
Photo Credit: CRC



 With D. Wa Hne, Jr.




In last week’s edition of “INSIDE CRC-ISSUES AND STRIDES” under the caption: “VOICES OF LIBERIANS AND THE FLIP SIDE OF THE COIN”, concerns from some Liberians over the management of the Liberian economy, property ownership rights, and natural resources benefits were presented with debates from both sides of the fence. These debates are continuing aggressively and prudently and are expected to be finally settled when they evolve into amendments by the choice of the people of Liberia and voted for in a national referendum.


Today’s edition focuses two controversial issues rooming the minds of Liberians and presenting themselves as core national issues that demand to be addressed constitutionally. These issues are dual citizenship and dual currency. What are the thoughts being expressed by some Liberians as they buy into the CRC process?


Citizenship is the foundation of the state. It separates one nation from the other. It is the basis for nationhood and sovereignty. In order to protect it, a constitution is written, voted as the organic law of the state by the citizens and recognized as the highest authority of the nation. The constitution therefore protects citizenship and places it first with the accompany security of the state, rights and privileges of the individual citizen under a governance structure.  


The question is: would the security of the state be guaranteed if the principle of citizenship is altered or diluted? Would the individual citizen be affected by a two way street? These have become the crux of debates on the issue of dual citizenship. What does the Constitution Review Committee say about the debate on dual citizenship?


The Constitution Review Committee or CRC has consistently said the decision rests with Liberians. However, its prime responsibilities are to present the constitution as it is; simplify it; make it understandable; provide the historicity of certain clauses and give impact analysis of provisions and leave citizens with the determination of what they want in the constitution and how they wish to be governed.




Article 27 explains who is a natural born Liberian citizen; how one can acquire citizenship and what criteria are set by the constitution to qualify for citizenship. Article 28 tells how one can lose his/her citizenship. It says “….no citizen of the Republic shall be deprived of citizenship or nationality except as provided by law; and no person shall be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality.” This means by choice, one can cease to be a citizen of the Republic.


On the issue of dual citizenship, there are two sides of the debate. One side argues that the Liberian Constitution does not recognize dual citizenship and as such, those who voluntarily relinquish their citizenship cannot eat their cake and have it. They further argue that it is dangerous to the security of Liberia to have citizens with double allegiance which could cause a draught economy for lack of patriotism and nationalism.


There is also the argument that dual citizenship may drain the Liberian economy and expose the nation to unpatriotic acts. They contend that Liberians in the diaspora have never been discriminated against and that article 22 of the constitution which provides that only Liberian citizens can own property has not been utilized against them and so, why would those citizens who willingly chose not to be Liberian citizens press for amendment of the constitution to make Liberia a dual citizen state? 


But there are other citizens of Liberia who believe Liberians are still living in primitive past in an advanced global society. It is their conviction that dual citizenship is cardinal to the nation’s development and as such the constitution should provide for it. They believe that in such a case, there has to be a provision that such citizens would not be qualified for the positions of managing directors, cabinet ministers, senators, representatives, vice president and president unless they have spent five years or above in Liberia.  


Their debates are that dual citizenship will enable Liberians who lost their citizenship to be more active and nationalistic in the development of their motherland and that the acquisition of citizenship of another land is not a fault of their own; but that of the civil war which engulfed Liberia for a decade and three years.


They claim that citizenship of those countries was compelling in terms of obtaining education, job, and securing their fundamental rights. That, according to them, does not indicate that Liberia is no longer their motherland to which they owe utmost loyalty, patriotism, and belonging. What do you have to say? These are arguments presented from both sides to the CRC at intellectual forums, community outreach and drawn from suggestion boxes.




CRC BOTTOM TO TOP METHODOLOGYwhich is described as the best international practice in constitutional making and/or review is yielding expected results. Citizens are buying into the process and they cut across all boundaries of the Liberian society.


Many callers and contributors have thanked the CRC for this open process which allow ordinary citizens to express their thoughts about society and the current constitution. Liberians, according to them, did not have such opportunity in 1847 neither did they have in 1986. As the process becomes inspiring, critical issues are taking the floor. Important among them is Liberia’s currency policies.


There are two currencies (USD/LRD) on the Liberian market. They both have legal standing and are used side by side. The United States Dollar out values the Liberian Dollar to the tune of L$83 to US$1. Is this a constitutional issue? What are the advantages and disadvantages? These questions continue to surface where ever the CRC goes. What does the constitution say?


Article 34 (d) of the Constitution empowers the National Legislature to, among other things, “issue currency, mint coins and make appropriations for the governance of the Republic.” This article instructs the Legislature to enact currency laws. Is the circulation of the United States Dollar a law enacted by the Legislature and backed by the constitution?


Some citizens are in agreement to the use of the United States Dollar alongside the Liberian Dollar. Their debates are that the United States Dollar is universal and enhances international trade, commerce and industrialization. Its national use attracts international investment and makes remittance of profits easy as well as importation of goods and services. It creates a robust economy and places Liberia in the center of international business.


Other citizens are saying “No”. They want the constitution to address the issue of dual currency. In their debate, they claim that the use of two currencies is a disadvantage to Liberia. According to them, there is USD currency flight; uncontrolled remittances; slow development; corruption; theft; and laundering. They complain that goods and services are transacted in USD with the exception of the local food market; while civil servants are paid in Liberian dollars. This means USD would have to be purchased at a higher rate.


They further claim that the use of the USD has created a sine qua non for the looting of the country by certain individuals, especially exploitative businessmen, via the United States Dollar which can easily be taken out of the country without bottlenecks. They believe the use of our national currency as a single currency would control currency flight, inspire and bring rapid development to Liberia. They want Central Bank regulation which would prioritize those needing foreign exchange. What is your debate on these issues?




Article 27(b) which restricts citizenship to “only persons who are Negroes and of Negroe descent” has been coming under sharp criticisms by some Liberians. They believe the clause is racist and needs to be amended. They are of the conviction that Liberia would experience steady and rapid development should whites be extended citizenship. According to them, Liberia is the only country that practices this discrimination.


However, there are counter views from other Liberians on people of non-Negroe descent becoming citizens. These views are centered on social and economic issues. “As the nation stands today, political and economic powers are in the hands of foreigners, particularly Asians and other non-Negroe nationals,” says a Liberian contributor in New Kru Town. According to him, he who controls the economy shapes the political direction of the country.


He says some of these economic giants have refused, over the years, to integrate with Liberians through marriage and other social activities. They believe there could be a danger to the unity and peace of Liberia in the future. Some of these Liberians are fearing that the removal of the restriction clause could create a future apartheid state in which whites may have their own areas well developed that may not be accessible to black Liberians. Paramount Chief, Oldman Sekou Dudu once cautioned, during his life time, that “Our children are quick to sell land and no sooner, Liberians would be landless and become slaves in their own country before they can know it; should these non-negroes who have the economic might be granted citizenship.”