George Weah vows to change Liberia’s citizenship laws

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Liberia’s President, George Weah, has called for the removal of a “racist” clause in the constitution, which restricts Liberian citizenship to black people.

The clause was “unnecessary, racist and inappropriate,” the ex-football star said in his first State of Nation since being elected president. He also pledged to scrap the law, which prohibits foreigners owning land. Freed US slaves founded Liberia in 1847 as “a refuge and a haven for freed men of colour”.

The citizenship restrictions introduced at the time were no longer necessary, Mr Weah said, adding that he also wanted a ban on dual citizenship to be abolished.

“It contradicts the very definition of Liberia, which is derived from the Latin word ‘liber’, meaning “liberty’,” he said.

President Weah, the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year, is the first former sports star to be elected president.

He won elections in December by a landslide, defeating then Vice-President Joseph Boakai.

The former AC Milan and Chelsea player succeeded Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, who stepped down after two terms.

In his address in parliament on Monday, Mr Weah also announced that he would be taking a pay cut of 25% because the government and the economy were “broke”.

“Our currency is in free fall; inflation is rising, unemployment is at an unprecedented high and our foreign reserves are at an all-time low,” he said.

He asked MPs to “follow my lead” and agree to a pay cut.

“Let us all remember that we were elected to serve the Liberian people and not to be masters of them,” Mr Weah said in an address that was interrupted by wild applause.

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate earn up to $15,000 (£10,600) a month, along with other benefits.

The vast majority of the population lives below the poverty line.

Liberia is still recovering from a civil war which officially ended in 2005.

It was also badly affected by the Ebola epidemic, which hit the region in 2014 and 2015.

 

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