In Sierra Leone should race determine your right to citizenship?

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Nasser Ayoub

Over the past two decades, thousands of Sierra Leoneans have emigrated to different parts of the world and in that time they’ve become naturalised citizens of those countries. In the US you can become a citizen by birth and by naturalisation, in the UK you can become a citizen by birth or by length of stay but in Sierra Leone the 1991 constitution states that one can only become a citizen if you have “negro” blood.

In today’s edition of Concord Times Nasser Ayoub a third generation Sierra Leonean born in Kono discusses the race discrimination faced by individuals born in Sierra Leone to non blacks who are legally denied the right to hold the country’s passport. Because the law does not grant citizenship to non blacks people like Nasser (who was able to gain a British passpost after years of residency) has to live in Sierra Leone as a foreigner. As a foreigner the constitution denies Nasser and others like him the right to buy and own property in the country of his birth.

In 2007 a constitutional review committee proposed that new sections be added to the constitution detailing different ways in which citizenship can be acquired. The Committee proposed that individuals should be full citizens regardless of their race, and or skin color, and recommended that naturalised citizens have the same rights as birth citizens.

For a country that is so hospitable and open to foreigners I think that the constitution’s position on citizenship does not reflect who we are as a people. Furthermore it seems ridiculous that we can grant citizenship to black americans who use DNA to trace their ancestry but we refuse to grant citizenship to individuals who pay taxes, directly contribute to the economy, provide employment, speak the language, reside here, and most importantly were born in Sierra Leone.

How would feel if you were born in the US or the UK and you were refused citizenship because of your race? Do you think we need to change the constitution and grant citizenship to individuals who are born here but do not have “negro” blood? Is the 1991 constitution xenophobic

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