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;
Diasporans have not been treated seriously despite their huge remitances and investmements in their motherland. Diasporans need to come together forming stronger unions to advocate for their interests. A lot of diasporans for instance have been swindled off their hard earned cash in property and other transactions.
Having citizenship in another country should not be a barrier rather it should be seen as an added advantage. Sierra Leone is desperate for foreign direct investments and still largely depends on donor support. Having dual citizenship can create the leverage needed in negotiations in this direction.
Punishing diasporians for taking up residency in foreign lands, is not only a direct contravention of their birth right, but also when one looks at Bio’s cabinet Ministers one is left scratching their heads wondering out loud, how many of them can claim they have never taken up citizenship in foreign countries, only to give it up and say they want go in to politics in Sierra Leone to help make a difference in people’s lives. Or for better choice of words, make a difference to their lives to better themselves. Suddenly they realised there are greener pastures in Sierra Leone than their adopted countries. The irony of course is this same returnee politicians, that have suddenly becomes overnight millions through corruption, have taken a hardline view on this issue of the diaspora taking part in our elections process.The reason is quiet simple, the Diasporains citizenry, s are more educated, knowledgeable, and knows things now far more than when they were struggling to make ends meet in Sierra Leone.
Now we can see through your lies and lack of commitment to develop our country. The scales of ignorance have fallen from our eyes. Many other African countries allows their citizens that are residents abroad to participate in their elections. Usually the voting process takes place through their Embassies and High Commissions. But Sierra Leone has always buck the trend. Our country is a special case. The odd one out. Or the black sheep of the African family. While all other countries are heading in one direction for the betterment of their peoples lives, and encouraging active participation of their citizens in their democratic dispensation,Sierra-leone the land of less opportunities is always stuck in colonial erra politics. Countries that are open, multi cultural are more developed, because they can draw from a large pool of talents of how to develop their country, than close societies. So pulling down the draw bridge, and denying the only tribe in Sierra Leone, the diaspora community, that contribute more to our countrys coffers than any other single tribe does, is no brainer.
The argument, that diasporians are trouble makers, yes some us are. Because we are angry, when we looked at our host countries, and what their politicians are doing to improve the lives of their citizens, and building mass infrastructure projects, 24hours electricity, good health care systems in place, unlimited opportunities for their young, and old, respect for the rule of law, an independent judiciary, a free press, where citizens can take their governments to court with out fearing for reprisals from over jealous police or security. Where governments are scrutinies by the opposition. Countries make use of their God given natural resources to support their citizens through government programs, so no one falls through the net poverty. Diasporains are pertty hacked off. Is because of your corruption,and under development of our country, RUFs wars that led many of your fellow countrymen to seek better security of life and property in foreign lands. There is no place like home. But because of your unpatriotic tendencies, you make our country resembles hell hole like a mad max movie no one wants to reside in .
A dual citizen should not be president or hold high offices of state, however, provision should be made for such citizens to be members of parliament and other civil service Jobs.