Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 August 2021
As pressure mounts on lawmakers in Sierra Leone to amend the country’s Constitution, so that Sierra Leonean nationals living overseas can be nominated for elections, as well as serve as ministers of State without first renouncing their overseas citizenship, former Attorney General – Joseph Franklyn Kamara has waded in.
This is what he told the Sierra Leone Telegraph yesterday:
“The real purport of the proposed Constitutional Amendment 2021 is to make persons who have taken an Oath of Allegiance to another country, to hold public offices in Sierra Leone, including but not limited to the Office of President, Member of Parliament, Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector-General of Police and Chief-Justice. (Photo: Joseph F Kamara).
“Furthermore, Section 76(1)(a) of the Constitution cannot be amended without recourse to Section 75(a), as both have the same effect and intendment.
“The recital to the Amendment, is inconsistent with the substantive provision being sought to amend. The Constitutional Review processes (Peter Tucker and Justice Cowan) should provide the necessary guidelines and the general public needs to have a better understanding of the implication and effect of this amendment.”
The arguments for and against allowing diasporans to compete in national elections and hold high offices in government in Sierra Leone is clear.
For advocates of change, its about their human rights as citizens of the country whose yearly financial contribution to Sierra Leone’s survival runs into hundreds of millions of dollars.
But those opposing the Bill say that allowing Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora to become members of parliament and hold high offices, poses serious national security threat.
Leading the campaign for constitutional change, is the parliamentary leader of the opposition National Grand Coalition (NGC) party – Dr Kandeh Yumkella, whose Constitutional Amendment Bill has the support of most opposition parties.
Yumkella himself was subjected to judicial hearing and renunciation of his US citizenship before he could qualify to contest presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018.
This is what the Constitution of Sierra Leone currently says about qualification for parliament:
Section 75: Subject to the provisions of section 76, any person who —
(a) is a citizen of Sierra Leone (otherwise than by naturalization); and
(b) has attained the age of twenty-one years; and
(c) is an elector whose name is on a register of electors under the Franchise and Electoral Registration Act, 1961, or under any Act of Parliament amending or replacing that Act; and
(d) is able to speak and to read the English Language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament,
shall be qualified for election as such a Member of Parliament:
Provided that a person who becomes a citizen of Sierra Leone by registration by law shall not be qualified for election as such a Member of Parliament or of any Local Authority unless he shall have resided continuously in Sierra Leone for twenty-five years after such registration or shall have served in the Civil or Regular Armed Services of Sierra Leone for a continuous period of twenty-five years.
Disqualifications for membership of Parliament
(1) No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament—
(a) if he is a naturalised citizen of Sierra Leone or is a citizen of a country other than Sierra Leone having become such a citizen voluntarily or is under a declaration of allegiance to such a country;