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.

  4. On the citizenship issue: it is racism, let’s not put too fine a point on it. Both of my parents are Black Africans (Sierra Leoneans) and yet, because I was born in England, I could, if I had a mind to, contest for the highest elected office in the land (PM), with no hindrance. If I were denied that right because of my colour, guess what I’d holler?

  5. Honestly, the reason why I personally will never advocate for foreign entities, especially white people to gain citizenship traction in our beloved continent is because of this I believe that the vast majority of Whites still subscribe to the notion that this world is their playground, and that there are no other biological ethnic groups that are fit enough to share it with.

    Not too long ago there was an ethnic cleansing in Libya – a nation that is stationed on a continent that by common consensus belongs to blacks, by a group of Arab mercenaries who were most likely sent by some powerful white men who apparently have a thing for seeing black Africans die in droves. The mercenaries were able to pull this off by targeting villages that black people were most concentrated in. These villages were then bombed to smithereens, which became worrisome and even led the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame to go in and evacuate some of the Africans who had not fallen victim to the mass killings.

    Not only that, but these mass killings were able to take motion simply due to the fact that the black Africans had become minority in Libya, and as a consequence of becoming the lesser group in their country, they were stripped of any core political leverage that could have seen them stand a better chance at surviving those attacks… With these suggested openness to our country, that could easily happen in Sierra Leone with time, and to be brutally frank, that is not something that I envisage I would want my unborn children to live through.

    • Mr Ade Daramy – I am quite sure you are familiar with the phrase ‘killing two or three birds with one stone’. Now that is no easy task to accomplish; it is something that demands and requires strenuous effort, tenacity and unmatched skill. Again such a feat cannot be achieved just by throwing any kind of stone at the intended target/ You will certainly need to choose something small, smooth and round, resembling marbles that have the ability to rebound instantly like tiny sponge balls when they are thrown directly against an intended target, then bounce and ricochet again towards another and yet another ad infinitum.

      The same thing applies to the video now in discussion; why miss a perfect opportunity to show an already enthusiastic world stunning breathtaking glimpses of other cities and places that will eventually translate into something lucrative and beneficial for the whole of Sierra leone? Seriously, whoever is trying to promote only Freetown at the expense of other cash-strapped cities, is sending a wrong message out there – that the only place worth seeing, visiting and of great interest and value in our Sierra Leone is the city of Freetown; nothing can be more further from the truth.

      Again, in little things great things sometimes clearly emerge – a tiny seed gives birth eventually into a giant oak tree, and a massive oxygen balloon can be carried in a little knapsack before it becomes fully inflated. So what have we to lose by becoming all-inclusive in such a priceless little project? Why not use patriotism,skill and ingenuity like hands in gloves, together and become exceptionally creative by using just one stone to kill three birds for the benefit of our beloved Sierra Leone?

      Again,let me reiterate, it is a nicely done video but lacking in totality just like a lovely dazzling yellow house I once saw resembling a radiant dashing sunflower that somehow, strangely still remains uncompleted without any strong windows or solid doors made of steel attached to it. Sadly also, it reminds me of a lonely gorgeous woman waiting to be married – that strange house, like your project, is without a lovely matching colorful roof, still there, waiting and waiting to be completed in vain.(lol) Gentlemen – get back to the drawing board – IT IS WELL!

  6. Most people understand what color means when talking about a person’s race. It refers to your skin color, e.g. white, black, olive, brown. However, the subtleties of what characteristics are being referred to when talking about a person’s nationality, national origin and ethnic origin are more difficult.Your nationality is the specific legal relationship between a person and a state, whether by birth or naturalization with an immigrant. Thus, a Jersey man who emigrates to Australia applies for naturalization and passes the Australian citizenship test as a nationality of Australian.

    National origin is the nation from which a person originates. For example, a British citizen might have a national origin of England, Scotland, Wales, or Jersey, depending on where they originate. The national origin must have identifiable historical and geographical elements that, in time, show the existence of a nation. National origin is not something an individual can change, though origin can change through the generations of a family. Everyone has an ethnic origin, but ethnicity or ethnic origin only applies in the new law where a person belongs to an ethnic group as defined by the courts. The two essential characteristics for an ethnic group are a long-shared history and a cultural tradition of its own, which may include a common geographical descent, language, literature or religion; being a minority group, or having a history of being oppressed.

    Just as we can adopt nationality, so can ethnic origin. It is possible for a person to adopt the ethnic origin of a group as their own and to integrate the culture, history, language, literature, and/or religion of that group into their own identity. For example, people who convert to Judaism may consider their ethnic origin to be Jewish because it is more important to associate with this social group than any other ethnic group to which they might have a claim to belong. For this reason, it is not always possible to know what someone’s ethnic origin is without asking them. Here is one famous name with their racial descriptions as taken from their biographies as already stated, the person concerned may not agree with our descriptions and you would need to ask him, especially about their ethnic origin: Former president Barack Obama Color: black, nationality: USA, national origin: USA, ethnic origin: Kenyan/Hawaiian-American/Indonesian

  7. How many Africans hold Lebanese passports or citizenship though?
    Maybe the author of this article can educate us as to why that is.

  8. A big NO to give out our passport to coloured people. Have you ever faced the shame, disgrace and humiliation of an airport or conference? In Mecca, the holy city of Islam, a head of dthe Haj mission (A Pakistani) was denied entry to a conference after showing his passport to the authorities bashing him aside, outright you are not a Sierra Leonean!!!.

    During Siaka Stevens time and to be specific during Ambassador Alhaji Jibril Sesay’s time, a Lebanese student was awarded a scholarship to read medicine by the name of Afif. Devastated Sierra Leonean students struggling to make it happen, were provoked by their Egyptian students.
    Living witnesses are: Dr.Allusine Sesay, Dr.Alusine A. Kamara (in Virginia USA), Dr. TBK – just to mention a few.

    • But yet you want citizenship in the US, Britain or any “white man’s” country. Your hypocrisy does not cease to amaze me.

  9. The definition of citizenship in Africa has always and remains a contestous issue. At the Berlin conference of 1885, when the European powers sat down to lay the demarcation lines that defined the majority of African states as we know them today, no traditional African kings or chiefs and their subjects were in attendance or consulted at the time.

    A lot of tribes that share the same cultural heritage and have lived peacefully side by side together, with the stroke of a pen, suddenly woke up to different countries. The Fulanis of Guinea and Sierra Leone; the Mandigo of Liberia and Guinea. The Temne and Susu of Guinea and Sierra Leone, The Ewe of Ghana, Tutsi and Hutus of Rwanda, and Burundi respectively, the christian blacks of Darfur versus the Arab dominated Sudan, the Igbo versus the Housa Fulanis of Nigeria, which resulted into the Biafran war of the 1970s.
    The wars between Ethiopia and Somalia also in the 70s due to a border dispute and more recently Eritrea and Ethiopia, The DRC, the country that has never known peace since it’s independence from Belgium in the 1960s and many more.

    And suffice to say millions have died and continue to die today, because some countries still haven’t recognised these borders drawn up by European powers. Lebanese people that came to Sierra leone in the 1800s, only got their recognition as citizens recently. Fulanis suffered a lot of discrimination under the Stevens government. The hardest thing to swallow is when your fellow African labels you as a foreigner on the African continent. After all, all humans originated from the Savanah of East Africa. With the advent of the internet, the world is now a small village. So if you work and pay your taxes and are ready to integrate to some of the cultures of your host country and with no criminal record, you should be qualified for citizenship. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  10. STARGAZER: Beautifully stated! You are the man for that because that was a home-run. You hit it right out the park as if you initially aimed for it to never be seen again. Just beautiful. Thank You!

  11. Having worked for the good of my adoptive country (Mama Salone) for 5 years, married to a beautiful Sierra Leonean girl and loving SL and her potential, I wish I could be privileged enough to be granted citizen status. I have also been honoured to appear, as the only white person in Freetong’s promo video currently airing several times a day on SLBC “The City Belongs to Everyone”.

    • A nicely done video for promoting and enhancing the city of Freetown but what about other cities,towns a villages renowned and celebrated for their natural beauty,breathtaking marine reserves, mountains, waterfalls and landscapes? Why were they deliberately left out?

      Freetown is just a tiny part of Sierra Leone, resembling a single grain in a giant sack full of corn.(lol) Whosoever it was that made this eye-catching promo needs to go back to the drawing board and create something anew,that is totally all inclusive which will be regarded as an authentic representation of all that exists in our beloved nation and what it stands for.

  12. Citizenship should not be determined by the color of someone’s skin but through the three legitimate ways rightly listed above – totally agree. But one should not be hasty to condemn those dark skinned Africans who hold contrary opinions on this issue, because their mistrust of white-skinned people are not unfounded but mostly based on historical experiences and facts. One thing still remains clear – the African psyche, spirit and soul has been shredded to pieces, subjected to inexpressible trauma, aggression, persecutions and mindless exploitation at the hands of Europeans and is still being subjected today to diverse forms of terrifying ordeals, humiliations, rampant obtrusive inhumane prejudices and discrimination worldwide.

    Who can blame our gallant vigilant people for being suspicious of wicked wolves that came to Africa killed and robbed its innocent, welcoming, gentle people and took them forcibly in chains as helpless slaves to faraway lands, away and astray from their loving peaceful homes? Again, clearly, experiences have shown many that white-skinned people who relocate to Africa or who are even born here oftentimes consider themselves superior to dark-skinned Africans and it has also been proven that their main motivations are mostly geared towards exploiting a gullible, naive and unsuspecting people.

    Idi Amin and Mugabe have been called buffoons by the West but keen and prudent minds would unhesitatingly tell you that their suspicions of White-skinned people were not groundless but rooted in concrete refined experiences accumulated from years of thoughtful, watchful observations. So my advice to those White-skinned people who were born in Africa or who have already naturalized and become citizens is for them to reexamine their irresolute tentative attitudes toward our people, and perhaps, just perhaps someday their candid sincerity of purpose will be enough for Africans to embrace them as brothers and sisters without holding any forms of resentments, reservations and doubts. Hey! If it was entirely up to me, love would be the only thing that matters – love a country with all your heart, mind, soul and body and a passport should be guaranteed – it should be yours!

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