Kandeh Yumkella was a citizen of Sierra Leone at the time he registered to vote

Abu Bakarr Orkailkail Bangura: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 January 2018:

A UK – Sierra Leonean Barrister – Pierre Dumbuya, posed a very important question on the issue of citizenship. He stated that “An important issue for all of us who lost our Sierra Leonean citizenship when we obtained another citizenship, is when and how we get back such citizenship when the Sierra Leone Citizenship (Amendment) Act came into force”.

This is a very important issue to all Sierra Leoneans not just for KKY.

I recently listened to an audio of someone speaking on behalf of the APC about the petition against KKY. Some people claimed it was Frank Kargbo, Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, but I could not confirm such claims.

The speaker on the audio claimed that KKY lost his Sierra Leonean citizenship when he became a US citizen.  This claim raises a number of questions:

CAN ONE LOSE HIS OR HER SIERRA LEONEAN CITIZENSHIP BY MERELY OBTAINING US CITIZENSHIP AND SWEARING AN OATH OF ALLEGIANCE TO THAT COUNTRY?

While this might be true under the 1973 Citizenship, it does not seem to be the case under Sierra Leone Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2006. The 2006 permits Sierra Leoneans to hold dual citizenship.

Therefore, swearing an oath of allegiance to another country does not automatically cancel your Sierra Leonean citizenship. The argument put forward by the petitioner(s) is based on the erroneous assumption that the US does not permit.

On the contrary, the US permits dual citizenship. Below is an extract of US policy on dual citizenship from the US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs:

“U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one nationality or another. A U.S. citizen may naturalize in a foreign state without any risk to his or her U.S. citizenship. However, persons who acquire a foreign nationality after 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. They are required to obey the laws of both countries, and either country has the right to enforce its laws”.

It is obvious from the above that swearing an oath of allegiance to the US is not the same as renouncing your citizenship of another country. Let us say for argument sake that it is illegal for US citizens to have dual citizenship, KKY would be committing an offence under the US laws but not under Sierra Leone laws as such an act is legal under Sierra Leone laws.

The US does not and cannot regulate how the citizenship laws of another country. Therefore, any petition based on such argument is untenable.

CAN SIERRA LEONEAN CITIZENSHIP BE RENOUNCED – AND IF SO, HOW?

Since swearing an oath of allegiance to the US is not the same as renouncing the citizenship of another country, the next important question is how does one renounce Sierra Leonean citizenship.

While the 2006 Citizenship (Amendment) Act is silent on the procedure for renouncing Sierra Leonean citizenship, the 1973 Citizenship Act may serve as a point of reference since the 2006 Act only amended (not repealed) the 1973 Act. Section 15(1) of the 1973 Citizenship states that: “Where any citizen of Sierra Leone who is of full age and capacity makes a declaration renouncing his citizenship of Sierra Leone, the Minister shall, if he is satisfied … cause the declaration to be registered, and thereupon that person shall cease to be a citizen of Sierra Leone”.

Since KKY did not take any steps to renounce his citizenship under Section 15(1) of the 1973 Citizenship Act, it obvious that he has not renounced his citizenship.

HOW CAN INDIVIDUALS WHO LOST THEIR SIERRA LEONEAN CITIZENSHIP WHEN THEY OBTAINED THE CITIZENSHIP OF ANOTHER COUNTRY RESUME THEIR SIERRA LEONEAN CITIZENSHIP?

While 2006 Citizenship (Amendment) Act did not prescribe how citizenship can be resumed, Section 19(A) of the said Act states that “where any citizen of Sierra Leone, being of full age and capacity, has at any time acquired the citizenship of any foreign country by birth; or by any voluntary or formal act; or done any Act or thing the sole or primary purpose of which or the effect was or is to acquire the citizenship of a foreign country, and that person ceased to be a Sierra Leonean by reason thereof, he may, if he so wishes resume his Sierra Leonean citizenship”.

I agree with the opinion of my learned colleague, Pierre Dumbuya that applying and obtaining a Sierra Leonean passport subsequent to the coming into force of the 2006 Act is evidence of resumption of citizenship. To add to that, I believe that registering to vote is also evidence of resumption of citizenship.

From the above, it is my humble opinion that Kandeh Yumkella was a citizen of Sierra Leone at the time of his voter registration. I am therefore appealing to the courts to address this issue urgently with the utmost candour.

About the author:

Abu Bakarr Orkailkail Bangura holds the following qualifications: BA, LLB (UNDA), GDLP, LLM (USYD), LLM (UNSW), PhD in Law Cand. (UNSW).

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