George Weah’s agenda for constitutional reform in Liberia: The incentives for prioritizing citizenship
President Weah has expressed strong support for the legalization of dual-citizenship for Liberians and the possible granting of Liberian citizenship to non-Negroes. While he might have personal and political incentives, the urgency his administration gives to these issues presents perhaps renewed opportunities to reopen debates on constitutional reform broadly- writes Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei.
In his first State of the Nation address on 29 January 2018, new President George Weah proclaimed that the constitutional reform process will be revisited and particularly singled out reforms regarding the constitutional citizenship clause as demanding urgent attention. In 2012, Liberia launched a major constitutional review process with the establishment of a Constitution Review Committee whose mandate was ‘to examine constructively the Constitution of the Republic and lead a process that will produce appropriate constitutional amendment(s)’. The Committee’s work was carried out over a three-year period (2012 – 2015) and included consultations across the country with local citizens, seminar with experts, and diaspora consultations in Europe and the United States. A national conference was held in 2015 to decide on the key issues for referendum. The national conference, like some of the consultations, was marred by contentious arguments over issues of citizenship and the proclamation of a Christian religious identity for the state. While there were salient issues regarding political and service delivery reforms, religion and citizenship remain the most contentious and polarizing elements of the constitutional reform discourse in Liberia.