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Feature Article of Thursday, 31 May 2012

Columnist: Asare, Kwaku S.

All Hands on Deck

S. Kwaku Asare

I recently had the audacity to ask a highly respected public official why, under our laws, a Ghanaian (born and educated in Ghana) who holds the citizenship of another country, cannot be the Chief Fire Officer. To my utter shock and chagrin, he responded by saying “if the British Embassy and Castle are on Fire, a Chief Fire Officer who is both British and Ghanaian would be conflicted as to which fire to put out. Similarly, when the Attorney General was invited by the Supreme Court to explain why dual citizens are banned from holding certain public offices, the best answer he could provide was “The issue of citizenship also borders on issues of loyalty and fidelity. I am inviting this Honourable Court to ponder over these two hypothetical cases. How can the loyalty of say a Colonel in the Ghanaian Army be guaranteed if there is a war between Ghana and Nigeria and the said colonel holds both citizenship of Ghana and Nigeria? How can one be sure of the commitment and loyalty of Ghanaian High Commissioner to UK if there is a diplomatic row between Ghana and UK when the same Ghanaian High Commissioner holds a British citizenship as well?”

That is it! On some imagined and unreasonable fear of disloyalty and infidelity, we are willing to exclude thousands of our own citizens from serving as Members of Parliament (MP); Justices of the Supreme Court; Minister; Ambassador; Secretary to the Cabinet; Chief of Defense Staff or any Service Chief; Inspector General of Police; Commissioner of CEPS; Director of Immigration, Commisioner of VAT, Director-General of Prisons Service, Chief Fire Officer, Chief Director of a Ministry; and rank of a Colonel in the Army or its equivalent in the other security services. But that is not all. Dual citizens can be excluded from holding any other public office that the Minister may by legislative instrument prescribe!

With this quality of reasoning, one wonders why dual citizens are allowed to play for the Black Stars. I am inviting the Honourable Readers to ponder over these two hypothetical cases. How can the loyalty of say a Striker in the Ghana Black Stars be guaranteed if there is a match between Ghana and Germany and the said Striker holds both citizenship of Ghana and Germany? How can one be sure of the commitment and loyalty of a Ghanaian Goalkeeper if there is a penalty shoot out between Ghana and UK when the same Ghanaian Goalkeeper holds a British citizenship as well?

Of course, we all know that Kevin Prince Boateng not only played for the Black Stars in the 2010 World Cup, he was one of our better players when the Black Stars played against Germany. That should be the answer for those who invoke this disloyalty and infidelity argument, assuming that the argument is a serious and sincere one.

What does it mean to say you are a citizen of Ghana? The Constitution addresses citizenship from two perspectives: In chapter 3, it focuses on citizenship as status and delineates who is a Ghanaian citizen. In chapter 7, it focuses on citizenship as a bundle of rights and delineates the rights that accrue to only and all citizens.

In Chapter 3, the Constitution stipulates the various ways that one can become a Ghanaian. These include grandfathered citizenship (those who were citizens before 1992), blood citizenship (anyone born anywhere to at least one Ghanaian citizen), child citizenship (children who are less than 8 years and found in Ghana or less than 16 years and adopted) and marriage citizenship (anyone married to a Ghanaian can apply to become a citizen).

In Chapter 7, the Constitution stipulates that citizens have the unfettered right to vote. This right has several derivative rights, including the right to be registered, the right to participate fully and equally in the political process, the right to cast a ballot, the right for the ballot to be counted, the right for the ballot to be weighed equally, the right to run for elected office, the right to hold unelected public office, and the right to finance a candidate for elections.

In effect, we the people of Ghana reject a Caste system that varies a citizen’s rights based on social, economic, political, religious, ethnic, resident, or other citizenship status. In effect, whatever their inequalities of wealth, status, and power in the everyday activities of civil society; citizenship gives everyone the same status as peers in the political public. This is the concept of equal citizenship.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned exclusions, create a new class of of citizenship: dual and unequal citizens. This class of citizens are not allowed to participate in the political process. They cannot belong to the legislature. They cannot serve on the highest court of the land. They cannot belong to the executive. While they are “citizens,” they lack the rights that inure to “true citizens.” They are told, in very plain language, that they are disloyal and infidel and cannot partake in serious governance matters. These exclusions are antithetical to the structure and spirit of the Constitution, which endows all citizens with the same and equal rights.

As a condition precedent to holding these “excluded offices,” dual citizens are told to renounce their other citizenship, a requirement that is unduly harsh, unreasonable and serves no legitimate purpose. It is a tad naïve to assume that a disloyal infidel will suddenly become loyal and faithful merely because of some administrative procedure (renounciation). Moreover, the “excluded offices” are elective or appointive and the electors and appointors can properly incorporate any effect of dual citizenship in their voting and appointing decisions. That is, let the voters and the appointor decide whether to hire these dual citizens. Whatever irritanioal fears exist about dual citizens can be addressed by asking them to take a special oath of office.

The exclusions are also irrational because dual citizens have served and can serve at the office of the Presidency, including serving as Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff. I am reliably informed that Alex Segbefia is a dual citizen but he serves as Deputy Chief of Staff. In Kuffuor’s adminsitration, the late Daniel Agyeman served as a legal counsellor at the Presidency. If dual citizens can serve as Chief of Staff of the President, which arguably is one of the most powerful positions in the country, then it is unfathomable and irrational to exclude them from serving in positions, such as Chief Fire Officer or as elected Members of Parliament. Most ministers are nominated and screened by the Chief of Staff. When they are confirmed by Parliament, their access to the Presidency is via the Chief of Staff. Yet, the Chef of Staff, were he a dual citizen, would be disqualified from being a minister. There is no logic to this!

Further, the requirement that dual citizens renounce their other citizenships is discriminatory and disproportional. It is discriminatory because it requires dual citizens to give up both their citizenship of and residence in the non-Ghanaian country while permanent residents do not give up their residence when they opt to serve Ghana. That is, renouncing their citizenships as a condition precedent to serving forces dual citizens to give up their residence as well. It is also discriminatory in treating dual citizens differntly from single citizens.

The exclusions devalue the dignity of dual citizens as they are treated as infidels and disloyal citizens in their own country. Further, they are punished (by being excluded from these offices) on a mere suspicion, contrary to our cherished principle of giving every person tehir day in court.

Dual citizens, as citizens of this country, have interests and have a fundamental right to fully engage in the political process, including the ability to serve in all elected and appointed public offices. If we do not think dual citizens are worthy of serving because we have questions about their loyalty and fidelity then the appropriate response is to take away their citizenships not to create a society of unequal citizens.

Dual citizens support the national economy with their remittances. In 2010, remittances or private unrequited transfers (net) in the year amounted to $2.12 billion. This evidences their loyalty and commitment to the country. In the history of the 4th Republic and the country, there is not a single case, where a dual citizen has been found to betray the country. On the other hand, many dual citizens played an active role in creating the conditions that led to the establishment of the 4th Republic.

We have complex problems in the country and we must recah out to our citizens everywhere for solutions. All hands on deck. This Parliament must repeal the discriminatory exclusions.

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