From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone politics: 2-sim bites hard

24 January 2018 at 23:17 | 1549 views

Commentary

By Bailor Jalloh, PV Freetown Bureau Chief

The constitutional controversy over dual citizenship of section 76 (1) of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone which disqualified Sierra Leoneans with dual citizenship from being members of parliament has brought important issues to a sharper focus especially in the wake of awarding party symbols by the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) under the chairmanship and leadership of President Koroma to aspirants mostly from the diaspora with dual citizenship.

The APC took the tough decision to disqualify the party’s symbol aspirants with dual citizenship based on a constitutional provision. This has caused a huge controversy here. Among the former symbol seekers from the diaspora are former members of parliament. This has left them, their families, friends and supporters in a perpetual nightmare that has attracted both national and international media outlets and other segments of the Sierra Leonean society with heated debates. The Patriotic Vanguard Bureau Chief in Freetown (yours truly) has been among senior journalists critically discussing this topical issue on the State Television -Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC TV).

According to section 76(1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991, no person shall be qualified for election as a member of parliament 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 a country.

However, this dual citizenship saga has also sent shock waves to political opponents as others perceived that two presidential candidates were indirectly targeted: Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella (KKY) of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP). The common question many people are asking is why now, why the implementation of such a law as many people with dual citizenship had been elected to parliament and appointed to cabinet since President Koroma assumed power ten years ago?

Meanwhile, this dual citizenship brouhaha has also been transformed into political satire with a satiric slogan ’ sim one -sim two ’. This does not in anyway refer to cellular mobile phones with sim one card or sim two card but referring to home based politicians with single citizenship (sim one) and Sierra Leonean politicians from the diaspora with dual citizenship (sim two ).

In reflection, this whole episode of dual citizenship was ignited in October 2017 by Sierra Leone’s former Ombudsman in the previous government lawyer Francis Gabbidon currently a law lecturer at the University of Sierra Leone. He raised this dual citizenship thing in an article titled ’’ Sierra Leoneans with dual citizenship cannot be members of parliament ", referring to section 76(1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

In the Sierra Leone Telegraph edition of 5th November, 2017 quoted a one time Sierra Leone magistrate Adrian Fisher who said he had read with interest, a short article written by his learned friend and senior colleague at the Bar, Francis Gabbidon Esq entitled "Sierra Leoneans with dual citizenship cannot be members of parliament " and it is safe to conclude as a matter of fact, that at the time the 1991 constitution was drafted and enacted, the concept of dual nationality or dual citizenship was not part of the laws of Sierra Leone and the concept had no basis in Sierra Leone.

In contradiction, the Sierra Leone Citizenship (Amendment )Act, 2006-this was an Act of parliament that was enacted " to amend the Sierra Leone Citizenship Act, 1973 so as to grant the right of dual citizenship. In simple terms acquisition of dual citizenship has now become a right that is enshrined in law. The effect of this amendment to the 1973 Act is that citizenship is no lo longer lost or deemed to be lost automatically by the acquisition or possession of citizenship of another state. However, the constitution is the supreme law of the land compared to other laws of the land.

To conclude, the outgoing president Ernest Bai Koroma is the first president of the Republic of Sierra Leone to set up an Office of Diaspora Affairs in the Office of the President to attract Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora to come back home and be part of the governance system of the country. Now constitutional controversy over dual citizenship has bitten Sierra Leonean politicians from the disapora with dual citizenship.

Or 2-sim, as it is known locally.

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