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Opinion: Should the African Diaspora have free-visa access to Africa? (Source: Global Fusion)

March 30, 2013
A united Africa should have visa-free travel for its diaspora

A united Africa should have visa-free travel for its diaspora

Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings pushed for the granting of free visa and ultimately dual citizenship for African-Americans during a meeting at the White House with former President Clinton (see excerpt from the transcript of that 1999 speech below).

African leaders are constantly calling on unification and offerings of a welcoming back to Africa for global Africans in the Diaspora in the name and honor of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah‘s dream & legacy. This visa waiver attempts to resurrect and connect the spirit, goals and teachings of Pan-Africanism.

Rawlings proposed the right of abode in a form of dual citizenship whereas African descendants in the Diaspora would get the Sankofa stamp in their passport, eliminating the need for a visa. President Rawlings at the time encouraged Diasporan Africans to return back to Africa to help build the continent and Ghana in particular, calling it “The Joseph Project“. I remember President Clinton weirdly laughing and shrugging it off as some sort of joke as if the Black Americans would just get up and go to Africa as American Jews packed up and settled in Israel.

President Rawlings proposal never came to fruition for Diasporan Africans, but it led the way to granting dual citzenship for Ghanaian ex-pats living abroad. Now the issue come up again in 2010, which many are calling the new decade of Africa with the world cup in Africa for the first time and what seems to be a new global scramble for Africa.

As a Pan-Africanist, I would love to see this happen in order to unite global Africans in and out of the continent, but I also agree with Marcus Garvey‘s quote : “Africa for the Africans… at home and abroad! I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa; there are blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there…”

“At the conclusion of an official visit to Ghana, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade announced his intention to introduce a legislation allowing members of the global African Diaspora to visit Senegal without need of a visa. The Senegalese leader was in Accra to participate in an International Colloquium honouring the legacy of Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah. In addition, this historic legislation would include a provision allowing members of the Diaspora to acquire a special passport…”

Words by Amma Sarfo

Link to original story:

Excerpt taken from: The President’s News Conference With President Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana-February 24, 1999

Q. President Rawlings, I think I’m on the wrong side of the room. I apologize, but I have a question for you.

President Rawlings. I understand. Actually, I was actually briefed that most of the questions would be directed at the President. [Laughter] I was made to understand that, don’t be surprised if most of the questions are related to American domestic situations and not the fact that I’m here from Africa. Thank you. Carry on, please. [Laughter]

Q. Well, I’ve heard that Ghana is offering some sort of dual citizenship to African-Americans. Is that true? What does it mean, and what’s the reasoning behind it?

President Rawlings. It’s very true. Sorry, do you mind if I—is it something connected to the question?

President Clinton. Answer this one, and then if you want to call on him, it’s fine.

President Rawlings. Very soon, our Parliament will be passing the bill to grant black Americans their dual citizenship, as far as Ghana is concerned, and you’ll have the right of dual abode.

Q. What does it mean?

President Rawlings. What does it mean?

Q. Yes.

President Rawlings. You wouldn’t need a visa; you wouldn’t need whatever it is to enter my country. You will have the freedom to move around as any fellow Ghanaian, and that will not deny you your American citizenship, either.

Q. What’s the reasoning behind it?

President Rawlings. What’s the reason behind it?

Q. Yes.

President Rawlings. Do German-Americans, do Israeli-Americans—are they denied the right of their citizenship back at home? No, no, please, if I’m wrong, can you correct me?

Q. I don’t know. [Laughter]

President Rawlings. Quite frankly, I mean, I could go on and on. But the point is that, I mean, you’re our kith and kin. If others can refer to themselves as Jewish Americans or German-Americans or Irish-Americans, whatever it is, Italian-Americans, and you’re calling yourself African——

Q. Americans.

President Rawlings. ——whatever it is. [Laughter] I mean, where do you come from? After all, I mean, my continent is the mother of—what do you call it?—not all continents but humanity and civilization as we’ve come to know today. I mean, is there any reason why you should not have the right to enjoy the citizenship of where you come from?

President Clinton. I’m just sorry I can’t do it. [Laughter] I don’t qualify. [Laughter]

President Rawlings. No, no, wait a minute, sir. Hold on, Mr. President. [Laughter] No, no. You’re not going to explain this for me. [Laughter]

Let’s put it this way. I’m rather surprised that you’re asking me this question. I should be asking you, I mean, how on God’s possible— whatever it is—could you be asking me a question like this? [Laughter] Because, I mean——

Q. Would it be dual loyalty?

President Rawlings. Well, I guess that’s what we have a bit of—we don’t have any problem with that. I think—when I look into that issue, I have a problem with you, because you’re demanding loyalty to the American Constitution, and yet I cannot demand the same kind of loyalty to my country. And this is where I’m beginning to have a problem. But nonetheless, there’s no reason why I will deny my fellow black African the right to enjoy the citizenship as I enjoy as an African.

President Clinton. Let me just try to—the general rule is that dual citizenship laws are, by definition, controlled by the citizenship conditions of both countries. And it’s not unheard of for Americans to have dual citizenship.

Interestingly enough, after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, we’ve had American citizens who had roots, for example, in the Baltic States. One went home to his country and became the Ambassador. I don’t know if he had to give up his American citizenship, or not. It would be a function of the law. But there are— and the laws operate differently in different countries. But almost all countries allow some form of dual citizenship.

Now, second thing is, the President didn’t mention this, but if Ghana does this, it certainly won’t hurt in trying to get more Americans interested in Ghana, going to Ghana, and contributing to Ghana’s future. I thought it was quite a clever idea myself. [Laughter]

Thank you very much.

President Rawlings. No, no, no. Hold on, Mr. President. [Laughter] On one condition—that if you fall foul of the laws and regulations of my country, the—what do you call it?—the judiciary, the police, and the laws of my country will take their course without the American Government attempting to intervene, to say, this is a citizen of my country.

President Clinton. I think that’s what the rule is.

President Rawlings. Thank you, sir.

President Clinton. There’s a whole lot of law on that. I think that’s the rule.

Thank you.

Q. I want to say to you something.

President Rawlings. Yes, sir.

Q. You know, we the people——

President Rawlings. Yes sir.

Q. ——of African descent that are Latino, are ready, willing, and able to cooperate with Africa—[inaudible]—and our experience, the President of the Dominican Republic, and I, as a Cuban-American, reside here for—[inaudible]—are ready and willing to help you in the African initiative. And I guarantee you with my friend of the Republican Party is going to give me 100 percent support for the initiatives of the President of Africa—[inaudible]. So you have the cooperation of the Latinos, like the Jewish have for their people in Israel


From → Africa, Opinion

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