You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2013 07 31Article 280929

Opinions of Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Columnist: Pobee-Mensah, Tony

Constitution Making and Citizenship

I will start with a quote from the Golden Jubilee Colloquium from the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana themed "Ghana at Fifty: Government, Politics and Development." The title is "Constitution-Making and Constitutional Rule in Ghana" by Alexander K.D. Frempong.

On page 3 of the document, the writer writes,

".... In most of post independence Africa, however, constitutions have often created or sanctioned elaborate bureaucratic, legislative, executive and judicial and structures that assumed levels of mass literacy, communication, cultural homogeneity and national identification that did not exist at the time, rendering the constitutions themselves irrelevant and meaningless to the bulk of the citizenry and undermining stability."

Let's forget cultural homogeneity and national identification for the sake of this opinion article. Would anyone say that in Ghana we have the mass literacy and the communication level that is required for making a constitution; especially one that takes away Nana Kojo Kum's son's citizenship away from him? Would anyone say that there would never be or that there was never a case where some old man in a small town in Ghana would vote for a constitution which takes his son's citizenship away from him: a son who quite possibly supports him? And would anyone argue that if there were such a person and if this person knew what the constitution was actually about, he would vote to pass the constitution?

I mistakenly assumed that the 1992 constitution was the first time that a language that took away Ghanaian citizenship if someone became a citizen of another country appeared in the constitution. Upon further reading, I have found that such language, just about word for word, appeared in the 1979 constitution. I am trying to get my hands on a copy of the 1971 constitution. I suspect that that was where such language started.

Let me say this before I continue. I believe that the argument that I have made against the 1992 Constitution as far as my citizenship goes, is still valid. At the time that I became a citizen of another country, in 1983, the 1979 constitution had been suspended and thus I continued to be a Ghanaian citizen. If the 1992 Constitution was going to take my Ghanaian citizenship away, I should have been offered a choice to forego my citizenship of the other country. This is beside the point however.

I suspect that 1971 constitution was the culprit because after the 1966 coup d'etat that overthrew the government Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia smack in the midst of it. At the time of the coup, there was wide speculation that CIA and the Scotland yard were the influencing force behind the coup; something that does not seem to have been refuted by anyone. Dr. Busia then made his triumphant comeback.

Upon his return, Dr. Busia was appointed the chair of the Constitutional committee. The work of this committee culminated in the 1971 constitution. This is what made it possible for the "Alien compliance order" under the Busia government. If Dr. Busia believed that Nigerians were the source of our economic woes from the start, it would not be surprising that he would want to define who a Ghanaian is in a constitution to facilitate his removal of "aliens". Was that constitution then an instrument to exclude Ghanaians in the Diaspora as it seems to have done ultimately?

No matter how or when the language got into our constitution, now, by the grace of God, some of us can read and understand the constitution and can, I hope, explain it to some among us. It is time for us to take another look at this issue because it is an issue that we have to gouge each other's eye out over until the clear majority of Ghana, with a clear understanding of what it is doing, support it before it can take effect. Even then, we should consider minority rights against the majority's wish.

Central to this issue should be whether it benefits Ghana in any way to take someone's citizenship from him/her. I have not seen any credible argument how it benefits Ghana. There have been some who have declared that "you should stay and help build the country". Some have also expressed that when things got hard in Ghana, we left.

Those who left Ghana in the latter years may have left because of hardship but my sympathies are solidly with them. If you are wearing "Rawlings chain" and you have a chance to go find food elsewhere, I will not be the first one nor be among those casting stones at you.

As far as I am concerned, and I believe I speak for many like me, I have argued that leaving Ghana was part of our culture as established by the colonial government and handed down to us. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. Busia, Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey and many others have been beneficiaries of this culture. At the time I left Ghana, in 1976, there were only 3 universities. Leaving Ghana to further your education was an option if you had the opportunity. I make no apologies for it.

I used to think that taxing those of us in the Diaspora to help build Ghana was in order. When I visited Ghana in 1993 and saw the sprouting up of Forex Bureau and other businesses, I concluded that we are doing our part and that taxing us was not in order. I believe we continue to play our part. The government continues to acknowledge this fact.

I do not like writing long articles and detest writing articles in parts, so please bear with me as I continue to do what I don't like doing.

Following some of my articles on this subject, many have made comments and some have presented information some of which suggest that the constitution no longer takes my citizenship from me. Ghana government continues to present the same articles in the constitution that define who a Ghanaian is. As far as the website goes, nothing has changed. Second point; I present the following from Article 8, clause 1 of the constitution as displayed on Ghana government's website:

"Subject to this article, a citizen of Ghana Shall cease forthwith to be a citizen of Ghana if, on attaining the age of twenty-one years, he, by a voluntary act, other than marriage, acquired or retains the citizenship of a country other than Ghana."

I attained citizenship following a marriage to a citizen of another country. Does this mean that I have not lost my citizenship? Other parts of the document talks about renouncing your Ghanaian citizenship. (By the way, I had an article published in the Ghanaians Abroad section on Ghanaweb. It is titled "Loss of US citizenship" posted on June 28, 2013. I copied a section on Dual Citizenship directly from the US state department's website. It is meant for those who argue that you renounce your Ghanaian citizenship when you become a US citizen. While this denunciation is true, it is not the end all be all that many seem to claim.)

I believe that Ghanaian embassies should weigh in on this issue to clear it up for us. If nothing at all, they should state what the policy is. I made a request of the Ghanaian embassy in the US for an interview with the ambassador and publish the interview in Ghanaweb. No one has bothered to answer my email that I sent from their website. Of course responding to Ghanaians will be the last priority.

I am not saying they have nothing else to do, but I have been waiting for about two weeks now and if I am to guess, I will guess that I should not hold my breath waiting for them to respond to me. I have met Ambassador Ohene Agyekum. I find him a very admirable man and he has my utmost respect.

The most tangible argument that I have seen about why you should lose your Ghanaian citizenship if you became a citizen of another country is that you would have a divided allegiance. I have seen the government make this argument in documents and I have seen the Supreme Court make this argument.

I would think that our Supreme Court will make judgements based on evidence before it rather than on assumptions. I will dare say that the assumption that if a Ghanaian became a citizen of another country, then he would have no allegiance to Ghana is patently wrong. I will dare the Supreme Court to show to Ghanaian public the evidence that supports this argument. If anything, I will say that anyone's primary allegiance is to his/her country of birth. The Supreme Court has cited the behaviour of the Black Star coach from Serbia as an example even though they used it wrongfully, in my opinion, to argue divided allegiance. I can emphatically say that Africans and Ghanaians in particular generally owe their primary allegiance to their country of birth despite what they may say about their country. BBC News study a few years ago found that 78% of Africans living in the Diaspora hoped to go back and live in their countries of origin despite poverty.

Those who betray their allegiance to their countries are often motivated by ideology or specific anger for a specific act. We are currently watching the case of Mr. Edward Snowden unfold. Mr. Snowden was not motivated by any split allegiance. If we would believe leaked reports in the news, it seems like there are many in our Government who are assumed to have all their allegiance to Ghana and yet seem to take their matching orders from the US embassy in Accra.

I would think that we will base our constitution on facts rather than assumptions. If the government can pay for a Constitution Committee, It can pay for a study to determine where the allegiance of all Ghanaians lies.

Before I end with a story, let me say it is our country. Our fore fathers earned it with their blood (don't we have a patriotic song saying this?). We should not take it lying down.

Finally, when a long time friend of mine arrived in the US for the first time, he told me Ghana was a useless country and he would never step foot there again. He said he would never forget spending a whole night under a stinking gutter at Korle Gonno because he could not find transportation to go home. He had to walk quite a distance at curfew time with many others. Along the way, they saw many people running to hide because there were soldiers patrolling the streets and they were coming their way. That specific incident led to his reaction. But guess what, he has since been to Ghana and looks forward to going again: so much for denouncing your country.

Tony Pobee-Mensah

Send your news stories to and features to . Chat with us via WhatsApp on +233 55 2699 625.

Join our Newsletter