Sierra Leone’s Dual Nationality Constitutional Fiasco

On the 9th of January 2018, Cocorioko Newspaper wrote that the “ruling All People’s Congress (APC) will be adhering to Section 76(1), Act No. 6 of the 1991 constitution, in awarding symbols for the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.”

Section 76(1) states that “no person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament, if he is a naturalized citizen of Sierra Leone or if he 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.”

Asked by Cocorioko why the APC took the decision only now, Mr. Agibu Jalloh – spokesman for the APC government, said that the law had always been there and that the decision was taken to avoid petitions against MPs after they would have won the forthcoming elections.

Mr. Jalloh disclosed that even the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party SLPP, adhered to the same law in awarding symbols to aspirants for parliamentary seats for the upcoming elections.

“It is a cautionary measure to avoid our MPs being petitioned by the opposition. If any MP holds a dual citizenship, he will have problems with the law and we as the ruling party cannot be found violating the law, ” he explained.

As I felt the pain of disappointment of those vying for Parliamentary seats, I could also recall a prediction we made in a past edition of Sierra Eye Magazine. In that edition we cautioned that the 2006 amendments made to the Citizenship laws were not adequate and belie much larger problems.

Today we see that those vying to become Parliamentarians are the latest victims of one of the bigger problems we anticipated.

My intention here is not to go into lengthy legal arguments, especially when section 76 sub-section 1 of the 1991 constitution is so clear. I will also refrain at this stage from commenting on whether this section must be maintained or amended.

I am however very troubled by the allegations that former Members of Parliament were disqualified because of their dual citizenship.

More disturbing is the other allegation that Ministers and Deputy Ministers with dual citizenship are currently serving in this government in blatant violation of Section 56 sub section 2 of the constitution, which provides that: A person shall not be appointed a Minister or Deputy Minister unless, He is qualified to be elected as a member of Parliament.

If these allegations are true, it begs a series of questions: How on earth did it happen? Is it that those who are responsible for upholding the constitution are themselves just as ignorant of the constitution, or did they deliberately turn a blind eye to it?

Is it that the vetting process that MPs and Ministers go through is so lackluster that not one person bothered to ask them to produce documentary evidence of their citizenship, before they were nominated? What about the so-called legal luminaries, civil society and activists that claim they are the watchmen of our democracy, how come they did not pay attention to this?

With regards the legal implications, another set of questions come to mind: What happens now to former MPs with dual citizenship who were voted for during their term? Should those  votes be declared null and void retrospectively or retroactively? Should the salaries they received from the consolidated fund be reclaimed?  Will they be investigated?

More worrisome and urgent right now are the following set of questions: What about directives, decisions and contracts signed by current-serving ministers who allegedly hold dual citizenship, can they be declared null and void? Can they be challenged in a court of law? How many of those instances exist?

Here is a hypothetical example. Minister A, who carries a dual citizenship, signed a contract or a concession on behalf of the government with a certain Company pursuant to his/her statutory duty. Is that contract valid when in this case the purported Minister is not really a Minister under the constitution?

Is the APC government even aware of the potential devastating legal consequences on directions, concessions and contracts that may have been signed and are being signed by these alleged Ministers with dual citizenship?

In sum, if the intention of the government is to obey the letter and spirit of the constitution, I move that the office of the Attorney General suspend the duties of all ministers, pending a full inquiry to investigate the question of Citizenship of every single Minister and Deputy Minister serving in the current cabinet, together with all the Presidential Candidates, otherwise the insinuations of illegality will continue to swirl.

Now that the government has suddenly woken up to section 76, the above proposal is a must, or else we are setting a dangerous precedent that will leave an indelible mark on our democratic process.

Editor’s note:

There are allegations that the following ruling APC party ministers and government officials have dual citizenship – including the president, yet are in receipt of public funds, in contravention of the Constitution they are now trying to uphold:

1) Ernest Bai Koroma (British Citizen)

2) Samura Kamara (British Citizen)

3)Paolo Conteh (British Citizen)

4) Joseph F. Kamara (American Citizen)

5) Allieu Pat-Sowe (British Citizen)

6)Madina Rahman (American Citizen)

7)Abdul Rahman Kamara (British Citizen)

8)Isata Kabia (British Citizen)

9)Logus Koroma (British Citizen)

10)Kelfala Marrah (British Citizen)

11) Diana Konomanyi (British Citizen)

12)Tamba Opel Samsumana (British Citizen)

13) Seray Dumbuya (American Citizen)

14) Nuru Deen Sankoh (American Citizen)

15) Tunde Lewally (American Citizen)

16) Binneh Bangura (American Citizen)

17) Amadu G Kargbo (American Citizen)

18) Alimamy Colson Turay (American Citizen)

19) Abdul Fofanah (British Citizen)

20) Pateh Bah (British Citizen)

21) Ibrahim Bundu (American Citizen)

22) Major Sengu Koroma (American Citizen)

23) Momodu Maligie (American Citizen

24. Hon. Sahr Samgba, MP, (American citizen)

25. Hon. Tamba Eba. MP, ( American citizen)

36. Hon. Ebun Strasser-King (American citizen) former Deputy Fireign Minister now Ambassador to Senegal

37. Hon. Mabinty Sillah, MP (British citizen)

38. Hon. Alimamy Kargbo (American Citizen) MP Cont.101

39. Hon. Nanette Thomas (American Citizen) Minister of public and political party affairs

40. Hon. Madina Rahman (American  Citizen) Deputy Minister of Health

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Critique Echo Newspaper is a major source of news and objective analyses about governance, democracy and human-right. Edited and published in Kenema city, eastern Sierra Leone, the outlet is generally referred to as a level plying ground for the youths, women and children.

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