Citizenship is not determined by colour but by national identity – Op-ed

Rodney Michael: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 August 2020:

There are three ways citizenship can be acquired – by birth, by descent and by naturalization. And as long as one becomes a citizen through any of the above means, they gain most of the privileges accorded to citizens, the right to vote, to reside and the right to a National Identity (passport).

A few days ago, a Sierra Leonean stirred up controversy when he commented in a WhatsApp forum that the 25 year old South African Motorsport rider, Brad Binder of the RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM, is not an African because he is “white” and only “blacks” can be Africans.

As outrageous as it sounds, yet quite a few have always said similar things, and even in the Western World, many think Africa is for “blacks” only.

There is a need to clarify what qualifies one to be a citizen of a country. In brief, a citizen of a country is one who qualifies to apply for a National identity of that country, which is the Passport or National Identity Card.

As long as you meet the requirements to apply and be awarded a passport or a National Identity Card, legitimately of course, you are a citizen of the country irrespective of your colour.

Some countries, like Sierra Leone, still have discriminatory laws restricting certain rights to particular groups of citizens.

For example, in Sierra Leone, “white citizens” like myself cannot hold public office, where one of the criteria is to qualify to contest for Parliament. The disqualifier is based on colour as none of our parents are of “black origin”. (Photo: Rodney Michael).

Yet my son, as he is of a mixed race, could now opt to enter the field of politics and vie for the highest office of the land, the Presidency.

Significantly, in as much as there is a restriction on what offices “whites” can hold, the citizenship is not denied and we enjoy all other benefits like our “none white” brothers and sisters.

It is therefore important for all to understand that citizenship is not determined by the colour of the skin but by the National Identity of the individual, and  as such Africa has “whites” too as citizens.

That said, ” white Sierra Leoneans” long for the day we have a brave President,  willing to appreciate the invaluable contributions of all citizens to Mama Salone, and open up the laws allowing equality for all its people, irrespective of colour or any other barrier.

President Kabbah established the Dr Peter Tucker Law Reform Commission (LRC) and failed to proceed with the recommendations.

President Koroma approved the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and ignored their proposals.

Could President Bio be that Leader, willing to effect the change and order the law officers department to act on both documents?

Time will tell, but that would be the greatest singular achievement ever of any leader in Sierra Leone since independence in 1961; and could lead to many other countries in West Africa following the lead from President Bio.


  1. How about a loyalty requirements. One can argue that generations of Lebanese, Indians and Chinese in Sierra Leone their loyalty is to their motherland. For example. Lebanese have been in our land for over 100 years in the mining industry specifically diamond and Gold extorting, and exporting it out of our land. selling it to the highest bidder in the world market.

    None of that money is invested in our land. But I assure you that money is invested in Lebanon. So yes we must require strong standards for anyone that is not black to prove their loyalty to our land. Until the day we have the Lebanese, Indians, Chinese serving in our military, police etc, I will argue for stronger requirements in order for them to be a Sierra Leonean.

    • Hahahaha, you must not have traveled out of your cocoon. Have you seen how many homes Creoles own in the UK or how many investment “Black’ Sierra Leaoneans have in the US and other “white” countries? Maybe when the Government provides opportunity in mama Salone then people will start investing there. It has nothing to do with color. It’s all about the Benjamin.

  2. Interesting article and comments.

    History unfortunately, has not been kind to Africa.

    Our black African descendants welcomed with open arms, the Europeans and Arabs who had come unto the African continent over the seas. In return, they were taken into captivity, beaten, humiliated, mutilated and worked as slaves till death. I can only imagine the pain felt when a child, parent, sibling disappears forever from the village, never to be seen again. It took almost 300 years to dismantle slavery.

    Our African ancestors welcomed them again unto African soil and they were promptly colonised. It took decades with bloodshed in some cases, for colonization to end and for the colonialists to let go of these African countries.

    African hospitality was still in active service when the ancestors pf present day black South Africans welcomed people from Europe with open arms again. And before they could blink, they were slaves in their own country. It took decades to wrestle the country back from the hands of the Europeans.

    Sierra Leonean girls were taken to the Middle East and promised hairdressing and nursing jobs only a few years ago. Instead, they were turned into slaves, raped and maltreated.

    This ‘open arms’ policy has never worked for Africa and it is always the same story, whether it is USA, Lebanon, Libya or Europe.

    When black Africans go to other continents with lighter skinned inhabitants, they do not go there to take over and maltreat the inhabitants, but to live and thrive. By the way, this is not being racist. I am just stating the facts.

    Life is about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes and experiences and ensuring that they never hapoen again.

  3. I don’t give a damn whether a Blackman or coloured person gets our passport. The LRC or the CRC does not matter to me in this case. What I want to know before any reform on this matter is, who was responsible for selling our passports during the NPRC JUNTA part I and II era? Were former President Ahmed Tejan Kabba and Former Vice President Solomon Berewa right or wrong? Read the article below. Thanks to my friend Massaquoi, a former SLPP party supporter, now supporting the C4C for sending me this link.

    Why all this complaining? If a coloured person wants our passport, let him or her go and buy one. Are we not in NPRC Junta part III Era? Is there a problem to buy our passports during NPRC Junta part III? May the souls of late President Kabba and late Vice President Berewa RIP. See you soon.

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