Sierra Leone government to review citizenship law

Published: 8/Sep/2010
Source: The Patriotic Vanguard (Freetown)_

By Gibril Koroma

The Lebanese community in Sierra Leone usually try very hard to stay out of the news headlines but an old citizenship law has recently forced one of them to speak out.

Indeed the archaic and colonial citizenship law of Sierra Leone is about to be overhauled following a strident campaign by Nasser Ayoub, a resident of Lebanese ancestry born in the east of country. He threatened to go on a hunger strike if he is not granted full citizenship and the government in Freetown represented by its Information Minister has met with members of the Lebanese community to look into the issue.

Nasser, a successful businessman, said he could have bribed somebody to get full citizenship and a Sierra Leonean passport, but he preferred to to do it the legal way, through the appropriate government channels.

Successive Sierra Leonean governments had battled against foreigners acquiring the country’s passports through dubious means and President Koroma announced a couple of months ago that he will fire any anybody caught in any passport scandal.

But Ayoub (seen in the photo with his family) says he is a bonafide citizen of Sierra Leone whose grandfather and father were born in Sierra Leone. He is only having problems because he is not black. “That’s racial discrimination, he said.”

Many Lebanese born and bred in Africa are not considered real citizens even though Lebanese had lived and worked in the continent hundreds of years. Extremely good at business, they usually control (unofficially) most of the economies of African states.

Many Africans think they are arrogant and racist as well, refusing inter-marriage between their daughters and black men. Marriage between a Lebanese man and a black woman are however common. Many Africans also complain about the the way black people are treated in Lebanon where Africans are usually found in menial jobs, usually working as domestic servants.

Africans born in Lebanon cannot be citizens as citizenship by birth is not recognized in that country. In Sierra Leone, citizenship by birth is recognized but only if one or both parents of the individual are black. Dual citizenship is now recognized in Sierra Leone after an intense campaign by Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora.

Ayoub’s campaign has gained wide support among Sierra Leoneans both black and non-black at home and abroad and this may be one of the reasons the government is about to have another look at the citizenship law.

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Themes: Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious
Regions: Sierra Leone
Year: 2010