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Opinions of Sunday, 6 July 2008

Columnist: Adu Asuama, Nana

Ghanaian MP with Dual Citizenship? Why not?

For a millionth time in the last ten days, I have pondered the questions above. They just won't go away. They hound my sleep as nightmares, torment my quiet time when I am awake, have made my thoughts so repetitive that I hear echoes louder than the howling on a Ghanaian farm in my ‘POOR HOLLOWED’ cranium. For my sanity I have to give them outlet and so I write this piece to liberate my torment which began when I read “On Disqualifying Dual Citizens - The case of Dr. Samuel Amoako,” by Boateng, Kofi A., (Ghanaweb 2008-06-20).

Of course, I did not stop with that single article. I could not. I also read Asare, S. Kwaku’s “Is Dual Citizenship the same as Dual Allegiance?” (Ghanaweb 2008-06-23); Anor, G. Ofori’s “Why I Support Dr. Amoako For Parliament” (Ghanaweb 2008-06-20); Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame’s, 3 part article “The Illegitimate Presidency of Rawlings Justifies ...” (Ghanaweb varied dates) as well as the many comments that were posted to each of the above articles.

A GHANAIAN MP WITH DUAL CITIZENSHIP? WHY NOT? The articles cited above, all written by Ghanaian Americans, argue in favor of Dr. Samuel Amoako, the US based dual citizen who won his party’s Abuakwa North primary election. KUDOS TO HIM. He sounds like a determined and competent man.

For transparency sake, I would like to point out that I am one of them; a naturalized American citizen, born and bred in Ghana until my 27th birthday when I migrated. I am very interested in Ghanaian politics. And should Dr. Amoako prevail, I will have a precedent to base my future political run on, however that is beside the point.

As mentioned earlier, Dr. Amoako sounds like a great guy and Hon. J.B. Danquah-Adu comes across as a sour looser. But is there merit in the lawsuit, if one has been filed? ABSOLUTELY YES!!! The issue raised by Dr. Amoako’s candidacy is bigger than either party in contention. It touches on the core of Ghanaian supreme law…....The intent or meaning of Chapter 10, article 94, clause 2(a) of our current constitution. “A person shall not be qualified to be a member of Parliament if he – owes allegiance to a country other than Ghana.”

Each of the four authors above has used semantics in one way or another to advance an argument. And three words, ALLEGIANCE, CITIZEN AND NATIONALITY, future prominently in those arguments. I am no lexicographer so I defer to an accepted authority, Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. I choose this source because it is readily available. Any person reading this article can open up a new browser window and look the words up. Below are the definitions of the three words:-

ALLEGIANCE - the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to a sovereign or government.

CITIZEN - member of a state b: a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it.

NATIONALITY - national status; specifically: a legal relationship involving allegiance on the part of an individual and usually protection on the part of the state.

Where lies the difference between citizenship and nationality that “Is Dual Citizenship the same as Dual Allegiance” so passionately advocate? I don't see it unless the distinction is legal. In which case, under our separation of powers system of Governance, the courts should determine that. And the courts only take up issues when lawsuits are filed. A lawsuit then is very, very appropriate.

“Why I Support Dr. Amoako For Parliament,” does a beautiful job of presenting Dr. Amoako to Ghanaians. He is a determined fighter, of good, sound character, run and lost against Hon. J.B. Danquah-Adu in 2004, lived to run another day and prevailed. He represents Ghanaians in USA and indeed the aspirations of all Ghanaians in the diaspora. Great! Great! Great! Hon. J.B. Danquah-Adu should have protested in 2004 or even before the current election. True!! True!! True!! The author will be a very formidable character witness for Dr. Amoako in court. None of this however negates the question; does a Dual Citizen qualify to run under our current constitution?

“The Illegitimate Presidency of Rawlings Justifies ...,” exposes the back room dealings that brought us the 1992 constitution, the atrocities that characterized the reigns of the AFRC – P/NDC; grunts about ex President Rawlings, touches on the inadequacies of the 1992 constitution that allowed the soldier to ride gunshot over our country as president. Again, great stuff! But News flash! Ghana accepted and has been governed by that faulty, inadequate document for the last 16 years. And now one of its many inadequacies has been exposed. How do we go forward? As a nation of laws (faulty or not), we need to let the courts interpret the existing law. Afterwards we can have our legislature or electorate rewrite the law in a legislation or a plebiscite, if we so find it faulty.

The author of “On Disqualifying Dual Citizens - The case of Dr. Samuel Amoako,” seems to accept the fact that as the current constitution prevents, a Dual Citizen from becoming an MP. His whole argument is that a Dual Citizen can contest for elections in Ghana then decide if he/she will like to give up the foreign citizenship at the time of swearing in. He wants our nation to borrow money, use it to organize an election, then hold her breadth and wait in suspense as the high and mighty dual citizen brings out a scale, puts Ghana MP-ship on the left, foreign citizenship on the right, weigh them and say “which one do I like best – to be a Ghanaian MP or keep my foreign citizenship.” This is ludicrous. And by the way his emphasis on the words “TO BE” brings to mind President Clinton’s usage of the definition of the word “IS” as a defense in his impeachment case – grasping at straws.

We have on our hands a simple case of YES or NO. Does the law allow a dual citizen to become an MP or not. Akans have an adage that translates literally as HE WHO SHOULD NOT BE BEATEN, SHOULD NOT BE PUSHED. If a dual citizen cannot be sworn in as MP without renunciation then he/she cannot contest for that position without first renouncing the foreign citizenship. It is understandably very difficult to ask a person to forgo his / her life's work (retirement, insurance and all) for the uncertainty of a Ghanaian political campaign. A hard, hard choice: The French say C'est la vie – That's life.

As Ghanaians in the diaspora, we should be grateful that this issue is being resolved or will be resolved civilly in the courts. We should understand that the issue is not about Dr. Amoako or Hon Danquah-Adu. It is law at work in a budding democracy. Just as occurs in democracies worldwide.

Those of us in the USA know about Roe VS Wade – the landmark decision that enshrined legal abortion in the US. In 1973 Jane Roe challenged the constitutionality of Texas abortion laws in federal court and prevailed, abortion became legal nationwide. Well, now Roe, the original plaintiff has changed her mind. She is pro-life and wants the abortion law abolished or reversed. Guess what? The law is bigger than her; that ruling stays until the Supreme Court overturns it.

We need the Ghanaian courts to tell us the meaning of the law. We must therefore applaud Hon. J.B. Danquah-Adu, even if his motives are questionable and his timing is very, very wrong. I shrink when I think of the amount money, time and effort Dr. Amoako might have poured into the race. I have read about calls to amend the law. I believe we should consider that after we have understood exactly what the constitution currently says. The courts will tell us that.

I support amending many provisions of the hastily strung together 1992 document. It is full of escape clauses - designed specifically to protect some folks at the time of its writing. It also has white elephants and many dead spaces. Dual citizenship for example did not exist in 1992. Since space and time will not allow me to go into the merits and demerits of amending the constitution, I will limit myself to looking at the question at hand.

However, any future amendment to define or re-define Dual Citizen participation in political power must look worldwide for precedence. To the best of my knowledge the only political system that allowed political elites of one country to be dual citizens of another is the colonial French assimilation policy. That is not precedence worth emulating.

We should also not be guided by fear. Some readers of Ghanaweb have cited the extradition battle over Fujimori as an example to bolster a case against MP-ship for Dual Citizens. Fujimori, an ethnic Japanese with dual citizenship of Peru and Japan, ruled Peru for 10 years. He fled to Japan in 2001 after being cited for human rights abuses in Peru. Japan initially resisted Peru's extradition request. It is worth noting that these issues dwell on treaties and co-operation between countries and not on dual citizenship. Japan does not have extradition policy with Peru. Fujimori was forced out to Chile where he was arrested. Chile also resisted his extradition until Peru showed convincing proof of his crime.

Recently, the Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, sought refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare. He is not a citizen of Holland. Since international law considers the Dutch Embassy in Zimbabwe as part of Holland, Mugabe's government could not pursue him there.

Unfortunate as it is, any lawsuit filed by Hon. J.B. Danquah-Adu to challenge Dr. Amoako's win in the Abuakwa North NPP primary elections is meritorious and should be allowed to go through the courts. I am very aware that court litigations often take time. However, the courts can be pressured to act fast especially when the justices are made to understand that a time is of the essence. The whole world witnessed how fast the United State Courts came down with a decision in the Bush V Gore case in the 2000 contested election of Florida.

NPP USA and all Ghanaians in the Diaspora, stakeholders and sympathizers of this case should direct efforts towards seeing a speedy adjudication from the courts. Any decision that comes out of this suit will probably clarify the constitutional provision and provide a definite answer to the question: Can Dual Citizens currently become MP’s in Ghana?

By Nana (just a first name not a title) Adu Asuama - Raleigh, NC USA (nanaaduasuama@mail.com)