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Opinions of Monday, 20 July 2009

Columnist: Boateng, Kofi A.

Dual Citizenship- Part 4- Ghana’s Parliament Must Amend Law

By Kofi A. Boateng New York July 16, 2009

We have written several articles on Ghana’s Dual Citizenship laws and pointed out that both the 1992 Constitution and the Ghana Citizenship Act 2000 fail to make clear distinctions between Ghanaians by Birth; and Ghanaians by Registration or Naturalization. The rights of each group are not spelled out and fear of one group is indiscriminately ascribed to the other. The result is that while Ghana is being toasted as a successful model of democracy in Africa by no less a person than the President of USA, Barack Obama, the country takes billions of remittances from its own citizens by birth who must leave family to live outside to generate these funds; and then the same Ghana denies them basic rights on collective and individual basis. At the collective level, Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs) are not allowed to exercise their right to vote in the country’s general elections even though Ghana’s parliament passed an amendment to its laws to permit such activity (Representation of the People Amendment Act – ROPAA – February 24, 2006). At the individual level, those GLAs who venture to contest the country’s electoral positions such as parliamentary seats, are hounded, dragged to court and rejected because they have committed the sin of taking dual citizenships. The confused state of affairs leads to making criminals out of honorable people all because a poorly written Constitution and incoherent Act fail to do something that Nigeria got right. Nigeria’s Constitution makes very clear distinctions among Nigerians by Birth, by Registration and by Naturalization and consistently ensures that the rights of those by birth are never infringed upon regardless of residence or dual nationality.

Only Nigerians by Registration or Naturalization are deemed to simultaneously owe allegiance to other countries unless they renounce them upon taking Nigerian citizenship. The allegiance to Nigeria is presumed always for the Nigerian by birth even if they subsequently take on dual citizenship. For this latter group, there is never a requirement to renounce any country’s citizenship as a condition to take any appointment in Nigeria or contest for any office – from parliament to the presidency. It is no wonder then that the late Chief Justice of Ghana- George Kingsley Acquah bemoaned Ghana’s citizenship laws and said:

“There should be an amendment to the Ghana’s Dual Citizenship Act to protect the rights of Ghanaian citizens… Ghana should look to an adoption of Nigeria’s Dual Citizenship Act which ensures that the birth right citizenship of either a Nigerian or non-Nigerian is not lost on the acquisition of a foreign or Nigerian citizenship. Such a highly commendable provision is worthy of emulation by all nations including Ghana in particular." November 2003, speaking on the topic, "Who is a Ghanaian? The Citizenship Perspective” at the 44th Founder's Week celebrations of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Science in Accra

The courts of Ghana, as in all countries, enforce and interpret laws even if they are bad. The lawmakers – parliament- make the law. With this insight, Justice Acquah was signaling that it is not up to the Supreme Court of Ghana to change the bad and muddled Ghana Citizenship laws but it is up to the parliament to bring sanity to a confused situation. How many members of Ghana’s parliament would be relieved to know that they no longer have to hide their own dual citizenships? How many will toast their freedom that they no longer have to live in fear that someone they anger today will expose them tomorrow. Are people any less Ghanaian because they once lived abroad and had to take dual citizenships often as the only condition of legal residency and decent employment to bring money to Ghana? This one is easy- simply copy Nigeria’s Citizenship laws. It is available on the internet no less.

GLAsNetwork has been formed to promote institutions that foster Ghana’s democracy and good governance with the participation of GLAs. It is non-partisan. Join us. Drop a note to kofib@optonline.net