A group of Liberians in the U.S. state of Minnesota has launched a 10,000-signature petition drive to urge the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Liberian legislature to embrace the idea of dual citizenship.
Under current law, dual citizenship is prohibited, but a bill has been introduced in the Liberian Senate to make it possible.
Abraham Kamara, public relations officer of the Organization for the Promotion of Development in Liberia, told VOA his organization launched the petition drive because dual citizenship would be in the economic and security interests of Liberia.
“We support dual citizenship because we believe it is in the economic interest of Liberia. It’s also in the national security interest of Liberia to have dual citizenship. We believe (for) a country emerging from 14 years of civil war, it is important to introduce dual citizenship because it will give Liberians, almost 500,000 who are in the United States and other parts of the world, and who have gained United States citizenship to go back home and contribute to the development of Liberia,” he said.
Kamara said Liberian-American professionals, if granted dual citizenship, can contribute enormously to Liberia's reconstruction.
“According to the statistics, Liberians in the United States send about $90-million annually to Liberia in terms of remittance and there are a lot of Liberian professionals here who are United States citizens (and) who would like to go back home to contribute. Those things will help grow the Liberian economy,” Kamara said.
Kamara said some Liberians who acquired U.S. citizenship did so out of necessity.
“The one thing we want Liberians (in Liberia) to understand is that some of us gained United States citizenship not by choice because we are here to go to school and, in order to get student loan, you need a U.S. citizenship, or sometimes certain jobs require you to obtain United States citizenship,” Kamara said.
He said Liberian-Americans are seeking dual citizenship not to take away jobs from Liberians, as perceived by some in Liberia.
“We believe this issue of dual citizenship should not come down to jobs because Liberians in the United States who want to go back home are not going back home to take jobs. There are not enough jobs in Liberia to absorb everyone. The majority of Liberians want to go back home to establish businesses. So, our message to our fellow Liberians is that this issue is not about jobs; it’s about the development of our country,” Kamara said.
A bill to have dual citizenship in Liberia was introduced in a committee of the Liberian senate by a number of lawmakers led by Senator Cletus Wortorson of Grand Kru County.
That bill is expected to be brought to the full Senate when the Liberian legislature returns from its break next week.
Senator Wortorson told VOA he would like Liberians, who want dual citizenship, to lobby their representatives and senators in Liberia intensely through phone calls and email.
Wortorson said President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is 100 percent in support of the dual citizenship bill.
Kamara said the lobbying process for passage of the dual citizenship bill begins with the 10,000-signature petition drive.
“That’s why we have launched a 10,000-signature petition drive and, along with the signatures, we are asking Liberians to donate a minimum of $1 towards this cause. We have established a website exclusively for this petition drive. It’s www.petitionliberia.com. The petition is available there and, right now in Minnesota, we have a hard copy of the petition going around for Liberians to sign it and contribute a minimum of $1 toward this cause,” Kamara said.
He said his group is also seeking signatures for the petition from Liberians in Liberia because they believe dual citizenship is a win-win situation for all Liberians.