Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 January 2018
The constitutional crisis caused by president Koroma and his attorney general’s sudden realisation that they have not been good custodians of the country’s Constitution, keeps rumbling. And the debate surrounding the moral right, if not the legality of the ruling APC party’s decision to use Section 76 – Subsection (1a) of the 1991 Constitution – otherwise known as the ‘Dual Nationality Clause’, to systematically and clumsily exclude certain citizens from contesting the forthcoming elections, continues.
While supporters and party grandees of the ruling APC – including the president, have been rubbing their hands with glee and in jubilation, thinking they have successfully netted the presidential candidate of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party – Dr Kandeh Yumkella, in their constitutional web of attrition and conspiracy, there was a dramatic turn of events in Freetown this afternoon.
The National Grand Coalition party this afternoon invited the country’s media to a press conference, where Dr. Yumkella unceremoniously burst the ruling party’s celebratory ‘Red Party Balloon’.
This is what Dr. Yumkella told the press conference to the delight and relief of his supporters and well-wishers, about the ‘Dual Citizenship Constitutional Crisis’ that has been engineered by the ruling APC to derail the country’s democratic credentials:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, my attention has been drawn to a series of articles alleging that I am currently a United States citizen and therefore unqualified to contest as a Member of Parliament and consequently for the Presidency. I was away from Sierra Leone and returned two days ago when the debate was raging.
I have convened you here today to respond to these allegations against me during the past week. I decided that in the interest of the public there is a need to clear the air and set the record straight.
It is a fact that I have had dual nationality. It is also a fact that I renounced the US citizenship to fully comply with the 1991 Constitution. I believe that the Constitution is supreme; and I am strongly of the view that the President as the Fountain of Honor and Commander -in- Chief of the Armed Forces must have allegiance to only the country he or she leads.
Thus, voluntarily and because of my firm commitment to serve my country, I renounced my US citizenship to ensure that I fully qualify to run for parliament on behalf of the people of Samu, and to contest the position of President of the republic of Sierra Leone. In other words, I made sure that I did not violate Section 76 subsection (1a) of the 1991 Constitution.
Today, before my formal nomination at the National Electoral Commission, I categorically say to you the people of Sierra Leone, that as of this moment, I do not hold any other nationality, nor do I have allegiance to any other country.
I want to make it clear for the avoidance of any doubt, that I am a citizen of one country in the world, and that’s Sierra Leone.
I repeat, my dear compatriots that I renounced my US citizenship because I believe it is an obligation and a call of duty to do so when you are running for the highest office.
Let me now show you copies of the Certificates of Loss of Nationality received from the United States Department of State.
Concerning the alleged Austrian citizenship, this is totally not true because Austria does not allow dual citizenship (you just have to do a simple visit to their website). Thus, people are free to check with the Austrian Consul in Sierra Leone.
That said, I encourage all political leaders currently running for Parliament and the Presidency to come clean and declare their status as I have done. I have taken this step advisedly to inform the people of Sierra Leone, because I respect and honour them and I believe they deserve an explanation from me.
On another note, I have followed with keen interest the debate on and the differing views that have been proffered on the interpretation of section 76 sub-section 1 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act no. 6 of the 1991 constitution. It is refreshing to note that suddenly, respect for the 1991 Constitution has taken a centre stage.
Now let me turn to the broader issue of dual citizenship. Sierra Leoneans were granted the right to dual citizenship by the efforts of Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabba, an honourable statesman who healed this nation after 11 years of a very divisive and dehumanizing civil war. He made every effort to unify this nation by encouraging tolerance and forgiveness.
He recognized the rights of the hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters living abroad and their families to identify with their motherland, and through an Act of Parliament he granted us dual citizenship. He also encouraged political pluralism and voluntarily relinquished power when his time was over.
Today our democracy is under siege and our Constitution is being abused by a cabal that is convinced that they must hold on to power by any means.
When he was in the opposition, President Ernest Bai Koroma courted the Diaspora for support and they helped propel him to power. For 10 years Mr. Koroma had them as parliamentarians and appointed them as ministers.
In fact, it is rumoured right now that, 6 persons among his ministers and deputy ministers have dual nationality. This is not only deeply hypocritical but also a violation of the 1991 Constitution.
President Koroma cannot claim to have been ignorant about the conflict between the 2006 citizenship amendment and the Constitution, because the issue was brought to his attention twice during his 10-year tenure.
The Peter Tucker Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) raised the issue and the Justice Cowan CRC also raised it and recommended amending the Constitution and the Government White Paper rejected the recommendation.
Section 56, of the 1991 Constitution states, “There shall be, in addition to the office Vice-President, such other offices of Ministers and Deputy Ministers as may be established by the President.” So, the President as Appointer if ministers, has a responsibility not to violate the Constitution when making ministerial appointments. Subsection 2(a) states “A person shall not be appointed a Minister or Deputy Minister unless he is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament.”
President Ernest Koroma knew this because he was leader of the opposition in Parliament for a long time. But he knowingly appointed people with dual nationality as ministers. He knowingly granted party symbol to people holding dual nationality to serve in parliament (as you know he believes he has supreme authority).
If the issue was about legality and constitutionality, why does President Koroma still have ministers who are dual citizens in his government?
The actions of the APC on this issue is just plain hypocrisy, and it is continuation of the selective use of the Constitution to settle political debts and witch hunting. Mr. President is knowingly stirring up a constitutional crisis on the threshold of the March 2018 elections, and perhaps still pushing the “more time agenda”.
Let us face the fact that the Sierra Leone People’s Party is also complicit in this duplicity. They approved all the Presidents ministerial appointments. They never provided true debate of appointments or challenge laws and bills sent to the Parliament. They approved front and shady companies and instruments put before them to loot this nation. This is why we need change. We in the NGC will continue to expose the hypocrisy and duplicity of the APC-led government.
Since I have come clean on the allegations of dual nationality against me, I am calling on all other Presidential Aspirants who face similar allegation to come out clean. These include Samura Kamara who, it is alleged may be holding a British passport; Chernor Maju Bah – whom it is alleged does not have Sierra Leonean citizenship; and Julia Maada Bio, who may be holding both Ghanaian and British citizenship.
The NGC also demands that all current ministers with dual nationality should resign with immediate effect. As a political party, the NGC will explore all possible legal measures to ensure that section 92 of the 1991 Constitution is enforced.
By wilfully and unintentionally spreading false rumours that I will be disqualified from running as a candidate for parliament and for the Presidency, the Ernest Koroma led APC government has clearly shown how worried they have become about the great prospect of the NGC winning the 2018 elections.
Our compatriots in the diaspora should be rest assured that we the NGC will grant them the right to vote, and we will re-visit section 76 of the 1991 constitution to amend the discriminatory sub-sections.
I want to seize this opportunity to appeal to all NGC supporters nationwide to stay the course and mobilise for victory. (End of Dr Yumkella’s statement).