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Elizabeth Davis-Russell and education are victims of Liberia’s ambiguous anti-dual citizenship policy

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh             Elizabeth Davis-Russell



“Elizabeth Davis – Russell, EdD, PhD , Liberia Rosa Parks Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat so that a white man could sit. Dec. 2, 2014 Dr. Davis-Russell refused to give up her US citizenship to serve as Minister of Education, RL. Dr. Russell your courageous refusal to bow to an unfair law (Title 4, Chapter 22 of 1973 Alien and Nationality Law) is a milestone in the Dual Citizenship Movement. You have provided inspiration for well-established professional Liberians like you to refuse to bow to an unfair law.” Emmanuel Wettee – Liberian Listserv, 12/08/14                                               


Folks, those are the words of Emmanuel Wettee. Former President, “Eminent Person,” ULAA.

Mr. Wettee probably meant well for the respected educator when he compared her unfortunate situation before the Liberian senate to that of the venerable Rosa Parks.

For Mr. Wettee to compare Rosa Parks’ historically courageous stance on racism and injustice in the US, to the conveniently one-sided, ambiguous and and loosely enforced citizenship law of Liberia, is injustice to his Dual Citizenship Movement.

Don’t get me wrong now, folks. I admire and respect Dr. Russell who spent her entire career as an educator.

Sadly, I honestly cannot say the same thing about some people in the Liberian government who are corrupt, dishonest and ineffective, and sees public service not as a way to elevate others, but a way to enrich themselves and talk down to their own people.

Elizabeth Davis-Russell is smart, credible and is all about education. Her passion for education, empowerment, and her unquenchable love for Liberia led her to Maryland County, with the hopes of guiding the William V. S. Tubman University to academic excellence and the world stage.

Even though I wish Dr. Russell all the best in her career moves, I was never onboard with her decision to leave Tubman University for the Ministry of Education.

I wanted Dr. Russell to remain at Tubman University (not indefinitely), but a little longer to leave her marks on a university that had become not only irrevelant but obsolete before her arrival there, when that institution remained in the shadows of both the University of Liberia and Cuttington University.

I expressed my displeasure privately to few of my colleagues after she accepted her nomination (not because she’s unqualified to lead that dysfunctional and ineffective bureaucracy, which is the Ministry of Education), but because Tubman University, I believe needed her more and for few more years to steer that university to continued academic excellence and international prominence.

However, what often puzzles me about the Liberian national legislature is the incompetent way that body often go about making crucial decisions that affects the nation.

This is the same body during previous confirmation hearings that is known to reject the confirmation of a presidential appointee, but comes back later (often in the same sentence) to confirm the same individual for the same position as if the situation about the individual changed overnight.

Dr. Russell was not confirmed for the Education Minister position because her (dual) nationality status became the issue for the senators.

Even though she was appointed by the same President Sirleaf in 2007, and served as Tubman University president with distinction since 2008 under the watchful eyes of her Maryland County legislative caucus members and their colleagues in both chambers, no one said a word about her competence and her citizenship status at the time.

So, why now?

Do we as Liberians care anything about our broken education system?

Coming out of a 14-year civil war that destroyed everything including the education system; and with school-age kids, high school and college students having problem with reading, writing and arithmetic, one would think the Liberian government (executive and legislative branch of government) would work hard to recruit qualified Liberians to put the nation’s education system on track.

Not so.

Their concern is to frustruate qualified Liberians with dual citizenship, who wants to help Liberia at this very critical time.

However, if this lady, Dr. Russell, who served so well in her previous position as university president was never questioned about her citizenship status and her competence, and served honorably; why bother her this time especially when she brings to her new position credibility, competence, wealth of experience and professionalism, that could be a plus for education in Liberia?

Why jump on Dr. Russell about her dual citizenship status (not her competence) as if it is a crime to have dual citizenship; when many Liberians who are working in the current Liberian government (President Sirleaf and Senator-elect George Weah, etc) reportedly are holding dual citizenship?

As a poor, neglected, corruption-plagued and development-challenged country, Liberia needs all of its citizens in foreign countries to return home to contribute to the re-building of that fractured and crumbling country we know as Liberia.

It is so true that some of our educated and wealthy brothers and sisters (Liberians) living in foreign countries – with or without dual citizenship refused to think about Liberia, refused to attend Liberian events, will not mingle with Liberians in their part of the world, or even think about visiting or returning to Liberia to help in any way or form in the development of Liberia.

So when Liberians with the education, life’s experience, dual citizenship and no dual citizenship, takes upon their time and resources and returned to Liberia to contribute to the development of their birth or ancestral country, the Liberian government shouldn’t frustrate and discourage them.

Those Liberians should be encouraged to return home to a country and government that will embrace them.

The Liberian legislature should enact a sensible dual citizenship law that spells out what is expected of Liberians and their children in foreign countries, so that they will know what to expect once they contemplate returning home.

Selective enforcement of the dual citizenship law or any law will not help Liberia, but will drive Liberians away from returning home to help in their country’s development.






Category: Editorial, News Headlines

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