Some of us may not be attached or loyal to any particular political party, but suffice it to say that we can be noisy when we notice unjust practices meted out to compatriots. In a world where everyone and anyone can claim to be a journalist today, it is easy to see how some can make themselves relevant just by having access to megabytes on smart phones or a desktop. Desktop journalism is fast becoming the order of the day. And this is against the backdrop of “freedom of speech”, which costs nothing but remains priceless. Nevertheless, folks should be aware of the noble responsibility to educate, entertain and inform our communities. And this brings us to an article I read from one Mr Chernor Alpha M. Bah, titled “The Dual Citizenship Debate: NGC and Kandeh Yumkela’s Legal Mess”.
Below are excerpts chosen from his article, to seek some divine enlightenment; considering that when it comes to constitutional matters, I am bankrupt. For the purpose of brevity, I will paraphrase his article. In his article, he insinuated that KKY renounced his foreign citizenship in November 2017, and that this was aimed to legalise his eligibility for the presidency. In his wisdom, he concluded that “until November 2017, Yumkella was legally ineligible to be appointed for political office in Sierra Leone due to his “dual citizenship “status. For starters Mr Bah, the issue of “dual citizenship” only became a political hot potato, right after NOVEMBER 2017. Like you rightly stated, KKY had “renounced his American Citizenship”, your words, not mine. So how can KKY be ineligible for the position, thanks to his “dual citizenship” that was renounced even before the APC Party invoked this part of the constitution? Let me make it simple for you. When was the “dual citizenship” part of the constitution invoked? Was it before November 2017 or after November 2017? Don’t answer that. But logic tells you that you can’t commit a crime for an act that has not been deemed criminal. So if KKY renounced his American Citizenship before the law was invoked, how does that make him an illegal candidate?
Mr.Bah further stated that “once you swear allegiance to a foreign country, such as the United States, it means that you have given primary privileges, protection, and right of citizenship of your previous country. Thus, by taking the oath to become a citizen of the United States, Yumkella technically gave up his Sierra Leonean citizenship”. His words, not mine. Is this in the US or Sierra Leone constitution? Can you reference this please? I am not saying that you are wrong, but can you direct us to some statute books please?
“Section 101(a)22 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that “ the term national of the United States’ means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United states”. The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a national of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own nationality laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S national parents may be both a U.S national and a national of the country of birth. Or, an individual having one nationality at birth may naturalise at a later date in another country and become a dual national.
U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one nationality or another. A U.S citizen may naturalise in a foreign state without any risk to his or her U.S citizenship. However, persons who acquire a foreign nationality age 18 by applying for it may relinquish their U.S nationality if they wish to do so. Dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. U.S nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. (U S Department of State- Bureau of Consular Affairs/ travel.state.gov).
It is interesting to note that in trying to lecture us about the rudimentary aspects of “dual citizenship”, he has conveniently developed an “oversight” of the meaning of the word “dual”. He says, thus, by taking the oath to become a citizen of the United States, Yumkella technically gave up his Sierra Leonean citizenship”. Technically, you are saying that Sierra Leoneans cannot be “dual citizens”. If you lose your Sierra Leonean citizenship because you took that of another country’s, it means you have only one citizenship. By your reasoning, you cannot have both; because the acquisition of one leads to the loss of the other. In English it means, Sierra Leoneans cannot be dual citizens. Phew. If Yumkella is considered a “dual (two) citizen”, how can he give up his “Sierra Leonean citizenship”, and still be considered “DUAL?” If you renounce one’s citizenship, which one can do voluntarily, does that mean you lose the other one as well, even though you have not renounced it?
The last time I checked, two minus one equals one. In lay man’s language, if I have 2 mangoes and I eat one, I am sure that I will be left with one. This does not seem to be the case in Mr Bah’s world. So Pythagoras was wrong? As if that was not enough, he continues to say that “assuming that Yumkella did indeed renounce his U S citizenship two months ago, this also means that he is at present a “stateless person”. It can equally be argued that to be eligible to run for political office in Sierra Leone, Yumkella would first have to re-regularise his Sierra Leonean citizenship, which he surrendered at the moment he pledged an oath of allegiance to become a US citizen”. His words, not mine. Are you following the illogical logic here folks? Tighten your seat belts. This is going to be a bumpy ride with some simple logical and sematic gymnastics.
We are now getting into the world of somnambulism. So please enlighten me here Mr Bah. Are you saying that like many in the diaspora, one is allowed to acquire a second citizenship to make it “dual”. But once you renounce that acquired citizenship, you lose your primary citizenship? By implication, are you saying that you cannot renounce one and keep the other? Are you saying by implication, a dual citizen will always remain dual, or forfeit their primary citizenship for renouncing the acquired one? That once a dual citizen, one will never become “Undual” (pardon the language), because both citizenships have become conjoined and inseparable till death us do part? Phew. Why would someone need to “re-regularise” their primary citizenship just because they gave up the “acquired one”. Talking about re-regularizing one’s citizenship; what does that entail again Mr Bah? Does it mean that one has to be born again, get a new birth certificate, a new passport, a new name, a new mother and father? Please enlighten us here. You claim that Yumkela, like others in the diaspora, surrendered his citizenship “the moment he pledged an oath to become a US citizen”. But when he pledged such an allegiance to become a US citizen, you still referred to him as having “DUAL CITIZENSHIP? So how can one lose his/her Sierra Leonean citizenship for pledging allegiance to another country and AT THE SAME TIME be classed as DUAL. So has DUAL got another meaning for you here? Is this a case of 2 for the price of 1, or 1 for the price of 2? OMG.
I am not pretending to know the ins and outs of our constitution here. I am just struggling to see where your power of reasoning and logic is coming from. Yumkella registered his party with the National Electoral Commission of our country. Are you suggesting that NEC also suffered from a lack of due diligence to check these matters? According to your Section 14 (1) of the Political Parties Act of 2002, “a political party shall not have as a founding member or a leader of the party or a member of its executive body, whether national or otherwise, a person who is not qualified to be elected as a member of parliament under the constitution”. That is quite true Mr Bah. But was Yumkella disqualified by NEC, when he registered his party, or got the nomination to lead his party? Did you actually take these wild accusations up with NEC, to find out why he was allowed to register his party and accept the nomination/ selection to lead his party, if he was not qualified to do so? Don’t answer that; as we already know the answer.
Mr Bah also contends that Yumkella has “violated both the provisions of the 1991 Constitution and the Political Parties Act of 2002”, because “both legal documents not only make it illegal for dual citizens to contest for political office, but they prohibit anyone not eligible for election as a member of parliament to hold an executive position in a political party, let alone make financial contributions to any political party”. Wow. This guy does not fail to amuse me. Did Mr Bah have such a discussion with Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as well? So what happened to those with DUAL NATIONALITIES, who have served not one, but two terms as Ministers, law makers, MPs in our country? This does not by any means make it legal or right, but has Mr Bah whispered such concerns to those in the know? Has he tried to find out why those with dual nationalities were allowed to play active roles in our political life blood? Hey Mr Bah, I have my receipts and invoices. And I am going to ask for a refund from all those with dual citizenships that served in my country’s parliament for the past 10 years.
Talk about “let alone make financial contributions to any political party”; so what happened to all those contributions that people in the diaspora, with dual citizenship, have been making and continue to make in cash or kind to political parties in Sierra Leone? What happened to all those “fundraising events” that took place, and continue to take place in the name of political parties’ right across the diaspora? What happened or continues to happen with the cashed raised from these events? Oh I forgot, they donated them to the orphans of the Ebola victims. Mr Bah, please name me one political party in Sierra Leone that has not engaged in a “manjalagee” exercise called fund raising in the diaspora. And please remind me that most of these people in the diaspora don’t have dual citizenships. So were they breaking the law by being charitable and “patriotic”? Were the receivers also breaking the law for being in need?
According to Mr Bah, “either these elite politicians who pride themselves on being “progressives” and “the vanguard of the new change” have been knowingly violating Sierra Leone’s electoral laws for two years, or simply grossly ignorant of even the most basic of election laws despite their violent and noisy approach to power”. Phew. If what Mr Bah is saying is anything to go by, although it doesn’t make it right; but there are many who would prefer those violating the laws for two years out of power, to who those violating them for ten consecutive years while in power. Agreed? Don’t answer that. Mr Bah stated that he was insulted by “NGC cyber vigilantes and political jihadists”, for his opinion. This is very unfortunate. We live in a free society, with freedom of speech. But using the word “jihadists” also has unfortunate connotations.
Take heart Mr Bah, and remember that violence and insults are the last refuge of the incompetent. I may not agree with your viewpoint, but I will defend your right to express them. But that does not give you the right to insult our intelligence either. In the meantime, you asked “am I not vindicated in my characterisation of the NGC’s campaign?” No you are not. You failed woefully to even observe the basic tenets of logic. You claim that by renouncing one citizenship, you lose both. You claim that by losing both, one has to re-regularise their citizenship for the other. I am waiting for the quotes in our statutes books. If NGC was guilty of manslaughter in breaking the electoral laws, APC is guilty of 3rd degree murder in the same vein. IF NGC are guilty of soliciting funds from dual citizens who, according to you is unlawful, the APC even organises thank you lunch for them at State House. If Yumkella broke the law for 2 years, Korthor did so for 10 years.
But hey, let us keep this conversation going. But let’s keep it civil and read our civics book more. We can start with “Civics for Sierra Leone: BK 2”, by Talibi Aisie Lucan. Just a reminder: I am not a politician. I don’t support any political party in Sierra Leone. I am a Democrat. Kapish?
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).