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22.09.2008 Feature Article

Dual Citizenship – Part 1 – A Primer or Should Amoako have renounced?

Dual Citizenship – Part 1 – A Primer or Should Amoako have renounced?
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The recent case of Dr. Samuel Amoako who was compelled to renounce his US citizenship as a condition for being allowed to pursue his campaign as NPP's parliamentary candidate for Abuakwa North begs a critical question that must be critically researched and answered before additional damage is done in the absence of a clear interpretation of the underlying laws that led to this development. The question is: Does Ghana's 1992 Constitution deprive Ghanaians by birth of their right to become Members of Parliament if they hold dual citizenships? You can add President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers. There is an additional open-ended list of positions that Ghanaians with dual citizenship cannot hold. This will be covered in the second installment.

Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer so this is not presented as a legal brief. The hope is that this piece will galvanize Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs) who are the immediate victims into a collective action to seek clarifications of the laws that are sometimes used selectively to deny GLAs of positions they seek in Ghana on account of them holding dual citizenships. Please hold your judgment and instinctive answer to the question until we go through the phases.

1992 Constitution - Citizenship by Birth and by Registration
Prof. Kwaku Azar of the University of Florida is careful to point out that contrary to most beliefs, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana granted dual citizenship. In Chapter Three (Citizenship), Ghana citizenship is granted upon application to non-Ghanaians who are married to citizens of Ghana. The Constitution classifies this group as citizens of Ghana by Registration as distinct from citizens of Ghana by Birth and ancestry.

What is the significance of this differentiation? The geographic entity called Ghana did not come into being until March 6, 1957. On that day, there was a need to define who were the natural owners “stockholders” of this new nation. Consequently, all the governing instruments (Constitutions) of the country have been careful to affirm a language such as:

“Every person who, on the coming into force of this Constitution, is a citizen of Ghana by law shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana” (1992 Const. Chapter 3 (1)

“ a person born in or outside Ghana after the coming into force of this Constitution shall become a citizen of Ghana at the date of his birth if either of his parents or grand parents is or was a citizen of Ghana” ( 1992 Constitution Chapter 3 (2)

To underscore the supremacy of the birth concept, even “ a child of not more than seven years of age found in Ghana whose parents are not known shall be presumed to be citizens of Ghana by birth” ( Chapter 3 (3)

The Attorney General can “deprive a person who is a citizen of Ghana, otherwise than by birth of that citizenship” if they engage in activities inimical to the security of Ghana. In other words, citizenship by birth has its privileges and is distinct from citizenship by registration. In deed one of the qualifications to be President of Ghana is that the individual must be “a citizen of Ghana by birth”.

1992 Constitution- Loss of Citizenship
Article 6 (1) of Chapter 3 of the 1992 Constitution has the following provision about loss of Ghana citizenship:
Subject to this article, a citizen of Ghana shall cease forthwith to be a citizen of Ghana if on attaining the age of 21 years, he by a voluntary act, other than marriage, acquired or retains the citizenship of a country other than Ghana.

There are a few points worth noting (a) the presumption is that this provision is referring to citizens by Birth since Article 6 (2) covers the loss of citizenship by Registration. (b) The immediacy of losing the citizenship is very strong and unequivocal as communicated by “forthwith”. However, it appears to be in conflict with Article 9 (5) of the Chapter: “ Parliament may make provision for the renunciation by any citizen of his citizenship.”

According to Dr. Agyenim Boateng , Deputy Attorney General of the State of Kentucky, this implies that there must be due process before one can be deemed to have renounced his/her Ghanaian citizenship. The question is where are Ghana's procedures as required by the Constitution? Until Parliament enacts these processes, it cannot be simply assumed that the taking of another country's citizenship is an automatic renunciation of Ghana's. The laxity of parliament does not make” forthwith” operational. (c) The expression “by a voluntary act” limits the application of this provision and has further consequences. For example what is the status of a child of a Ghanaian with a dual citizenship who did not voluntarily give up his/her Ghana citizenship? In other words, Dr Amoako can be asked to renounce his American citizenship but his USA-born child can argue that this provision does not apply to him/her?

Before you laugh, Prof. H. Kwasi Prempeh of Seton Hall Law School has brought to my attention that a similar case was successfully argued in Jamaica's Supreme Court and the second generation Jamaican -American won to become an MP without renouncing his US citizenship. Some wiser heads are needed to resolve this seeming inconsistency. And by the way, does the “except for marriage” exclusion grant a waiver to Ghanaians who obtain their citizenships of countries other than Ghana through marriage from the loss of their Ghana citizenship? I hope you also notice that the use of the male pronoun means that females can never lose their Ghana citizenship if they take the citizenship of other countries.

Could it be that the presumed limitation on dual citizens becoming MPs, Ministers and the other list of excluded positions was never intended for Ghanaians by birth?

To be continued in Part 2 where the Citizenship Act of 2000 that permits dual citizenships by Ghanaians but still maintains the limitations will be discussed.

PS: You are invited to support a non-partisan virtual Ad Hoc group – Ghana Citizenship Advocacy Group (G-CAG) that will pursue the matter of seeking an interpretation and amendment of Ghana's citizenship laws in Ghana's Parliament and Supreme Court. Please contact [email protected] It takes organization and money to litigate and effect change. If GLAs do not initiate and fund this effort, they will have themselves to blame when the laws of citizenship are arbitrarily interpreted against them. Please make your check payable and send your tax deductible contributions to African Federation Inc., P.O. Box 2186, Grand Central, New York, NY 10163. Do it for yourself, children and country. Make copies of this article for others. Thank you.

Kofi A. Boateng
Kofi A. Boateng, © 2008

The author has 16 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KofiABoateng

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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