Dual Citizenship: The Benefits of Dual Citizenship to the socio-economic and political development of Ghana
Dual citizenship or dual nationality refers to an individual being a citizen of two countries or a legal status by which a Ghanaian becomes a citizen of two countries. Dual citizens have two passports and essentially live and travel freely within their native and naturalised countries without immigration constraints.
According to Ghana's Citizenship Act of 2000 which went into effect in July 2002, “A citizen of Ghana may hold the citizenship of any other country in addition to his citizenship of Ghana.” Citizens who lost their citizenship as a result of the previous law which proscribed dual citizenship can regain their Ghanaian citizenship by applying to the Ministry of Interior for reinstatement.
A careful reading of the Dual citizenship Act 591, of 2001 and its companion Regulation of 2001 shows that the Act does not confer to the dual citizens all the rights and privileges enjoyed by Ghanaians under the 1992 constitution. The only benefits are the acquisition of a passport and a visa to freely travel between the foreign domiciliary and his/her home country of Ghana. The dual citizen, in fact, becomes a de facto second class citizen in his/her own country of birth or origin. Specifically under the Act, there are thirteen listed prohibited positions within the Ghana public service, i.e., Army and security apparatus, Justice of the Supreme Court, Ambassador, Chief Directory of a Ministry, or Colonel in the army , among others, which a dual citizen is proscribed from being appointed to. Such prohibition is not only in direct contravention of the equal protection clause of the constitution that extends equality of opportunity for all citizens without discrimination, but also in contravention of UN Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties which mandate all governments to allow all citizens the right to participate in the government and the public service, to tap on much-needed but ignored resource and human development of all its citizenship under the impetus of globalization.
The Republic of Ghana has realized the economic benefits of dual citizenship and continues to encourage its citizens since December 1, 2002, to obtain dual citizenship. However, some of our fellow brothers and sisters are openly hostile to the idea of Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs) competing for political office. GLAs are yet to exercise their voting rights abroad as conferred by ROPAA of 2006.
This article is a contribution to the contemporary debate amongst GLAs regarding the issue of Dual Citizenship. The focus of this discussion is about socio-economic and political benefits relevant to the development of our beloved country. The aim is to highlight some of the benefits of including GLAs, in particular those with dual citizenship, in the democratic process. We aim to show why amending the constitution is a necessity.
Dual citizenship is becoming more common in today's increasingly interconnected global economies. Countries such as India, the Philippines and Mexico have sought to utilise the advantages of dual citizenship by liberalizing their citizenship laws. These countries have realized that dual citizenship has the advantages of broadening a country's economic base, fostering trade and investment between the dual citizen's two respective countries. This view is shared by Africa's Brain Drain, an NGO dedicated to turning the brain drain into a brain gain. One of the benefits of dual citizenship is the ability of dual citizens to influence economic and political decisions in their host countries in favour of their countries of birth and descent , in our case, Ghana.
Losing/renouncing Ghanaian citizenship
There exists a prevailing perception among Ghanaians, that when a Ghanaian becomes a naturalized citizen of another country, the individual loses his/her Ghanaian citizenship. Naturalized US citizens are not legally obligated to give up their citizenship of their country. The United States has never ordered newly naturalized citizens to present themselves to their native country's embassy in order to formally renounce their original citizenship. Legally, there is nothing in the Constitution and there are none from the United States Supreme Court preventing the United States (via the State Department) from requiring all naturalized citizens to officially renounce their citizenship to their native country as a condition for naturalization. The Dutch Government asked Ghanaians to give up their Ghanaian passports upon naturalisation. In the UK, there is no obligation to renounce your Ghanaian citizenship. Britain fully embraces dual citizenship. It does not preclude a Ghanaian from serving at local Government or national Government level. It does not preclude Ghanaians from becoming Judges or holding political office. Indeed, the British Government has recognised the benefits of multiculturalism by including more Blacks in all positions including local Government and in the British parliament.
Oath of Allegiance
The opponents of the dual citizenship debate always draw one's attention to the oath of allegiance that one is required to declare. The opening lines of the Oath of Allegiance are meant to give the United States sovereignty over the newly naturalized citizen. The important thing to remember about the oath of allegiance is not the renunciation of your original citizenship, which the US does not enforce nor require, but to remember the allegiance and fidelity you swear to the United States of America. The oath is a promise one made to be faithful and true to the laws of America. The Oath is also a demonstration of one's loyalty and commitment to defend and protect the United States of America at all times.
In essence, an individual Ghanaian who obtained United States Citizenship is still a Ghanaian, especially on Ghanaian soil.
If dual citizenship is such a bad idea, why are Ghanaians endeavouring to adjust the status of Ghanaians presently on Temporary Protective Status (TPS)? There are people from Ghana who had to flee from persecution, torture and escape abroad following military intervention and coups in Ghana, wanton destruction of property and execution of their friends and relatives. Their lives were so threatened, their living conditions so deadly, they were granted political asylum. To these immigrants, U.S., U.K. and other second countries are more than a passport: to economic benefit. In Ghana's past, it was security and protection first to the individual and then to their relatives left behind in Ghana. Citizenship should be about ideals.
Comparison with other countries
In the last 12 years, Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the suppliers of some of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in America, have allowed their nationals to become citizens elsewhere without losing their original nationality. New leaderships in South Korea and India have expressed support for the same idea. Australians in the United States have been pressuring their government to allow dual citizenship so they can become Americans without losing their native status. Economic advantage is the main motivation here: avoiding the stiff estate taxes that the U.S. government imposes on foreigners operating in the United States. There is a large degree of evidence of naturalized USA and UK citizens operating in official capacities in their former country of origins.
Expertise, skill and experience
As society becomes more global and integrated, the value of Dual Citizenship and a second passport is increasingly becoming a necessity. The comforts of being an American or European Citizen, at the same time maintaining one's original nationality, provides an individual with an abundance of benefits and set of liberties. Economically, Ghana stands to benefit. Dual citizenship provides access to financial investment rights (property, securities, retirement, social security benefits, etc.) American citizenship provides access to adequate medical benefits, including potentially free healthcare, especially for those reaching the age of retirement. Access to educational benefits, including higher education, are all possibilities within the reach of Ghanaians who enjoyed dual citizenships. Most importantly, it provides opportunity for children of Ghanaian parentage to travel freely and reconnect with their cultural background and strengthen the fabric of their African heritage.
It is in Ghana's best interest to have an individual who has dual citizenship as a Member of Parliament, especially at this time. Never before in the history of Ghana, has the need for international assistance become so urgent and essential. The need for change is apparent; the need to seek and identify individuals whose expertise and experiences transcend the day-to-day norms of the Ghanaian society is a responsibility, which all Ghanaians cannot afford to ignore. It is one thing to talk about fifty-one years of independence, and it is another to know that Ghanaians' years of national sovereignty have yet to match the scope of their national development. Currently, developments of road net works, water system, health care facilities, education system, telecommunication facilities, etc. would benefit from an open system where the minds and resources of GLAs are freely tapped. The endorsing or advocating the development of multiple national attachments should be viewed in terms of national development and economic strategy. Dual citizenship would help Ghanaian businessmen/women to transact and move freely, especially in and out of the United States, United Kingdom, other parts of the European Union, etc.
Ghanaian children born in the Diaspora
The question that needs to be answered by the detractors of dual citizenship: Is it fair to deny any of the children born outside of Ghana of Ghanaian parentage from contesting the Ghanaian Parliamentary elections in the future because, they have dual citizenship? What about our sportsmen and women all over the world? The recent Olympic games were a demonstration of our failure to utilise the skills and talents of our citizens overseas. Ghana returned with no medals. Togo acquired a bronze medal by one of their dual-nationals. In fact, it is an open secret that some European-based players in our national team hold foreign passports. Like other Ghanaian professionals in the Diaspora, footballers take up foreign citizenship for practical reasons (e.g., to avoid UEFA and national league quotas on foreign players that existed before the Bosman ruling of 1996 or current restrictions on non-EU players).
In other cases, dual citizenship stems from the fact that some of these athletes were born in countries that grant citizenship by birth, but they later decided to play for Ghana rather than for their country of birth.
Free Enterprise and Democracy
The ideals of Free Enterprise and Democracy are complementary. The development and sustenance of a strong middle class is essential to attaining stability and growth in Ghana. Dual citizenship has the ability to bring this about. The future seems to provide a great promise; Dual citizenship will help to democratize the politics of Ghana. There are thousands of children born to Ghanaian nationals presently residing in the Diaspora. These children with their dual nationalities and exposures could help Ghana to navigate her destiny through the twenty-first century. Democracy indeed, is built on informed citizen participation, especially those who have lived and practiced it in developed countries. The ideal of democracy is meaningful participation of an engaged and informed citizenry. Dual Citizenship is undoubtedly, one of the ways to foster Ghana's future economic development. Leopold Senghor of Senegal was correct when he said: “To build a nation, to create a new civilization which can lay claim to existence because it is humane, we shall try to employ not only enlightened reason but also dynamic imagination.”
Globalization has dramatically altered the dual citizenship debate in many countries. Ghanaians Living Abroad make an enormous contribution towards the socio-economic development of our nation. The time has come for Ghana to take advantage of the vast experience of its own nationals without conditions and limitations.
GLAs' knowledge, qualifications, skills, talents and expertise should neither be ignored nor discarded. The political reasons that were once used to reject GLAs from participating in elections and holding political office are today steadily giving way to powerful economic and cultural arguments in favour of amending the constitution. It would allow expatriates and their children to return and invest in their birthplace, entice foreign investors and promote cross-border cooperation. Amending the relevant part of the Constitution and the legislation (Act 591) is certainly a way forward.
It would give the GLA the chance to propel our country to a higher level, lead to economic prosperity and political maturity. It would also be in recognition of the great support Ghana has received from her citizens who have been living beyond her shores over the years, in particular, the past 30 years. This support has been in the areas of economic, technical, social and infrastructural development. Annual remittances of more than $4billion cannot be treated lightly, therefore, the unrestricted importance that Ghana should attach to GLAs cannot be overemphasized. It is a win-win situation.
You are invited to support a non-partisan ad hoc group, Ghana Citizens-Advocacy Group (G-CAG) that will be fighting for the interest of Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLA's) You may contact and join your local British group email:[email protected] or USA group email: [email protected] for further details.
By Maame Ama Djaba, BA Hons, LLB Hons, LLM, London
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Georgette Djaba and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.