Citizenship and regional integration – Liberia and the West African Sub-Region

Published: 1/Jan/2008

By Alhaji G.V. Kromah

Presented at the National Seminar on Regional Integration

UNESCO’s Movement of Social Transformation (MOST) Program Monrovia, Liberia

January 2008


A Citizen is considered, among other descriptions, a “person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or nation.”(1) Traditional characteristics of the nation-state, such as a permanent population within a defined territory in the study of international relations, establish a direct relationship between the citizen (national) and the state. Determining how the individual is identified within or accedes to this definitional status of citizenship has had fundamental implications for population integration and politico-economic stability.

Where psycho-socio factors have featured strongly in the evolution of a nation-state, growing, for example, out of experiences of servitude or colonialism, the challenge has involved the establishing of constitutional safeguards against racial domination from the outside, in one part, and then the need to harmonize coterminous but different ethnic and class collectivities. In the case of Liberia, where Black emigrants mostly from the Western World formed the first government, the vestiges of racial alienation in their places of former habitat showed up in the Constitution, which declares that only people of Negroid descent can be citizens. The Liberian American experience is still taking time to benefit the nation in integrating its own diverse citizenry. Persistent ethnic/religious and attitudinal exclusions in the oldest Republic, a phenomenon present in a number of other nation-states in the sub-region, have taken their toll on integration and political steadiness.

This paper undertakes a brief survey of the effects of colonial intrusion into the socio-cultural and political growth patterns of West Africa, and the effect of the history of external racial discrimination on the character of citizenship in the sub-region, using Liberia as a pointer. The study examines the legal and attitudinal structures of post-independence nationality and the impact on political stability and the prospects for economic growth and development.


Themes: Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious, Dual Nationality
Regions: Liberia
Year: 2008