Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Reality of Dual Citizenship

In 2004, Hope Sullivan Masters, Founder and President of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation she established to continue her father’s work, asked me to head a project to develop the concept of dual citizenship. The interest in citizenship by African Americans in an African country had steadily risen after Reverend Sullivan was given citizenship in Cote d’Ivoire at the inaugural Africa-African American Summit in 1991.

When he created the bridge between Africa and America through his Summits in Africa, Reverend Sullivan sparked a passion among many in America for a genuine connection to Africa. There have long been African Americans who have worked for African liberation from this side of the Atlantic Ocean and those who have taken up residence on the continent. This year we honor the independence 50 years ago of 17 African nations. It was not until the wave of African independence that began in the 1950s that dual citizenship was even widely possible. Even so, real citizenship in another country carries both rights and responsibilities. Merely being given another country’s passport is not the whole story. That is what Reverend Sullivan knew from the beginning, and that is the gap that Mrs. Masters wanted to finally bridge.

Beginning with the first wave of African independence of countries such as Ghana, there have been Americans who repatriated to Africa because of their disgust with the blatant racism they experienced in America. Subsequently, there were those who repatriated because they simply felt more culturally akin to Africans. In many cases, however, they changed citizenship rather than took on an additional citizenship. The current dual citizenship effort is intended to build on the ties many feel either because of their longstanding interest in their ancestral homeland or because of a DNA test that linked them to a specific ethnic group in a specific country.

Technically, no country can give you dual citizenship. It results from acquiring citizenship in a new country and your current country not revoking your citizenship. Most dual citizens in America are from Mexico. The British have indelible citizenship that cannot be revoked. Jewish American can acquire automatic citizenship in Israel by virtue of their Jewish lineage. It is not something our government actively opposes.

“The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause,” says a State Department policy paper on dual nationality.

In fact, in order to lose your American citizenship, the State Department says you would have to freely and intentionally relinquish it. The government doesn’t take it from you; you have to give it up.

Potential problems include dual taxation, military service requirements where applicable, divided loyalty in the case of armed conflict, jurisdiction over crimes committed in one jurisdiction or another and extradition of those fleeing arrest in one of the countries. Some of us who are interested in a level of citizenship in Africa think more about their rights than their responsibilities and give no thought to how Africans may feel about an influx of Diasporans into their country. Think of how you would feel if even dozens of people suddenly showed up in your neighborhood without fully understanding the culture and unexpectedly changed the character of local elections and how life is lived.

All these challenges can be addressed, but we all need to recognize that they exist and not pretend this is all so easy. If that were the case, it would have been accomplished by now. Because of the complexities, we sought the advice and assistance of California attorney Anthony Archer, who researched and wrote a paper on dual citizenship that was presented at the eighth Leon H. Sullivan Summit in Arusha, Tanzania, in June 2008. Archer proposed three levels of citizenship that would allow governments to offer the benefits of citizenship on a graduated basis for Diasporans who wanted a certain level of involvement in their new homeland. We see this as mutually beneficial and an equitable method of developing a relationship that is meaningful in the long term.

Some people only seek to travel to Africa without current restrictions while they learn more about their proposed new homeland. Others want to do business or own property and be treated like a local businessperson. Others want the whole experience and intend to live at least part of the time in their new home.

Dual citizenship must be negotiated. One size does not fit all. Many of us would be unprepared to become full citizens in an African country we only discovered we had a tie to last week; others only want to be privileged regular visitors.

African leaders such as Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have expressed interest in developing closer ties with the African Diaspora, but the details still have to be worked out. We’ll all need to have some patience and understanding if this process is to work for both sides.

10 comments:

  1. 死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why didn't you mention African countries that actually grant African Americans citizenship? That would have been more informative. This seems to be an article praising another Black woman who likes to give speeches, and calls it 'working.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nigeria and most west African countries already have dual citizenship laws in their constitution but like the writer has explained, the processes in aquiring it has to be followed. The process is not so difficult and it is set out to allow smooth integration which is benefical to new n existing citizens alike. Also if you r a citizen of any west African country, you will have the right to move and trade freely across all the west african states without any visa or passport restrictions because they use a common ECOWAS passport.

      Delete
  3. HERE AT MY MAIN BLOG "BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL!" WE HAVE A WHOLE SECTION DEVOTED TO GOING BACK TO AFRICA. AS A BLACKamerikkkan WHO 32 YEARS AGO WENT BACK TO MY YORUBA ROOTS AND NEVER LOOKED BACK I AM MOVED BY AFRICAN COUNTRIES FINALLY STARTING TO GIVE US CITIZENSHIP WHICH HAS BEEN VERY HARD TO GET BEFORE! GOD IS MOVING ON THIS AND SOON ALL OF US WHO WANT CAN COME HOME WELCOMED LIKE THIS!
    CHECK US OUT AT;

    yeyeolade.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can u email me more info clarenceccosby@gmail.com

      Delete
  4. BY THE WAY LAST YEAR NIGERIA GAVE SULLIVAN NIGERIAN CITIZENSHIP- A FIRST FOR NIGERIA!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Im very moved to find this out...Ghana will be my country of aim but also seek to find my own ancestor's roots while I'm there!!! Cooperative economics with the motherland is a must for them as well as diaspora Afrikans!!! Peace & Imhotep

    ReplyDelete
  6. I want to know my REAL culture & get away from the United States of AmeriKKKa! I probably won't renounce my U.S. citizenship though because I've a lot of family that won't/can't move to Africa with me, but I've got to get out of here. This U.S. is the second coming of Babylon & the racism/genocide talk I read on the internet is so vitriolic. I don't want to bring any of my potential children into being in the U.S. NO WAY!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete