Sierra Leone: Changes to the 1991 Constitution Proposed

Published: 29/Fév/2016
Source: Library of Congress (Washington DC)

By Hanibal Goitom

(Feb. 29, 2016) On February 16, 2016, Sierra Leone’s Constitutional Review Committee (an 80-member body established in 2013 to review the 1991 Constitution and a 2008 report proposing changes to it) published an abridged draft report of its findings.  (Ibrahim Tarawallie, New Chapters Proposed in New Constitution, CONCORD TIMES (Feb. 17, 2016).)   The draft report, which took two years to prepare, is the result of “extensive” public consultations involving citizens both within and outside of Sierra Leone, contributions made by various individuals and organizations (including those in the form of consultations and over 100 position papers submitted to the committee), and the review of the constitutions of 75 countries.  (Id. at 6.) Among other recommendations, the Committee proposed four thematic areas for inclusion as new chapters in the 1991 Constitution: local government and decentralization; citizenship; land, natural resources, and the environment; and information, communication, and the media.  (Constitutional Review Committee, Abridged Draft Report (Feb. 2016), at 3.)



The proposed new chapter on citizenship provides four possible avenues for the acquisition of Sierra Leonean citizenship: birth, naturalization, marriage, or adoption.  (Abridged Draft Reportsupra, at 12.)  The proposed chapter would differ from the current legal framework for citizenship in several key respects.  For instance, it would eliminate race as the basis for citizenship.  (Id.)  Under the current provisions, the right to apply for citizenship is either exclusively reserved for (with regard to citizenship by  birth or descent), or preferential treatment is accorded to (in cases of applications for naturalization), an applicant who is “a person of negro African descent” (defined as “a person whose mother or father and any of the grandparents of the mother or the father is or was a Negro of African descent”).  (Sierra Leone Citizenship Act of Nov. 4 1973 (as amended in 1976) §§ 2-8 (May 24, 1973) REFWORLD; Sierra Leone Citizenship (Amendment) Act No. 11 of 2006 §§ 2-4 (Dec. 28, 2006) REFWORLD.)  The proposed chapter would also  allow any foreigner married to a Sierra Leonean to apply for and acquire citizenship by marriage, a right limited only to foreign women married to Sierra Leonean men under the current legal framework.  (Abridged Draft Reportsupra, at 12; Sierra Leone Citizenship Act, 1973, § 7.)

Like the issue of local government and decentralization, the citizenship matter was addressed in the 2002 TRC report.  In it, the Commission had stated that “[r]ace and gender must not be a consideration in the acquisition of citizenship.  The Sierra Leone Citizenship Act should be amended accordingly.”  (TRC, supra, at 133.)

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Themes: Acquisition de la nationalité, Acquisition par les enfants, Discrimination, Sexuelle, Naturalisation et le mariage, Ethnique/Raciale/Religieuse
Regions: Sierra Leone
Year: 2016