Source: AfricLaw (Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and the Centre for Human Rights, Pretoria)
Author: Urias Teh Pour
Executive Director, Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), Liberia
For the first time in the political history of Liberia, Liberians in the diaspora are making a strong case for their inclusion in the 2023 general and presidential elections. This call has come at the time when the Alien and Nationality Act of 1973 which prohibited dual nationality has been amended. The amended Act, Alien Nationality Law of 2022, provides that ‘any person who acquires another in addition to his or her Liberian citizenship shall not [be] deemed to have relinquished his or her Liberian citizenship.’
The passage of this law led to a wave of calls for the democratisation of electoral politics, considering the huge population of Liberians living abroad and their aspiration to participate in elections to elect their leaders at home. The Liberia Demographic Survey of 2021 projected Liberia’s population at 5.18 million. There are approximately 1.2 million Liberians and people with Liberian heritage scattered all over the globe, with the majority living and referring to the United States as their home. Some statisticians have predicted that the on-going population and housing census would exceed the projected number.
Diaspora Liberians, many of whom fled the country as refugees due to the civil war, have argued that their connection to Liberia remains strong and they are contributing to the post-war reconstruction and development of Liberia, including through remittances to relatives and family members. According to the World Bank “Migration and Remittances Data”, diaspora Liberians contributed 20.4 percent of the Country’s GDP between 2004-2013 through remittances . Liberians in the diaspora have contended further that the right to vote is a means by which people can democratically elect the government of their choice, an inherent right of all citizens that is a crucial part of democracy.