Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 February 2022:
Chairman of the United States Foreign Relations Committee, Gregory Weldon Meeks and delegation comprising of senior congressmen and women, paid a courtesy call on President Julius Maada Bio last Sunday, where he described Sierra Leone as “an example of a shining star of leadership in Africa” according to State House report.
Known for his compassionate and tenacious representation of his constituents and his coalition-building skills, Meeks, now in his thirteenth term, serves the constituents of New York’s Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is known for being an effective, principled, and common-sense leader.
During their two-day visit, President Bio crowned Congressman Gregory Meeks as Paramount Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone at a ceremony held in the Presidential Lodge in Freetown. Photo below: “This is an emotional day for me but am so glad that I am home. Barrack Obama may have Kenya, but I have Sierra Leone,” says Congressman Meeks .
Addressing his visitors, this is what President Julius Maada Bio said:
“I am truly elated, on behalf of the people of this great Republic, to welcome each and every one of you to our humble home, Sierra Leone. I know you have visited a site of great pain and sorrow – Bunce Island – where you vicariously relived the pain of parting, the sorrow of being forcefully taken away, forlorn, to a distant land. But what they never took away from you and from us is our common humanity, our common ancestry, our common genealogy.
“So, we welcome each and every one of you today to this land of rolling hills and forests, alluring sandy beaches, and beautiful people. This is Sierra Leone. Our rice-growing, rice-eating Gullah cousins from the South Carolina low country would say “Cumya can’t tell binya.” Those who arrive (cumyas) can’t tell those who have been here. This may well be true on both sides of the Atlantic. But we still eat and grow rice like them. We still weave shukublys, wear sehbeh, sing ring shouts, tell trickster stories, and eat okra and chitlins like them. We are they and they are us. DNA and science have unveiled this rich tapestry of history, of memory, and of lineage. In the last two years, we have welcomed home brothers and sisters from the African Diaspora.
“This is home for us; this is home for you; and this will always be home away from home. Welcome to Sierra Leone. Welcome to the fourth most peaceful country in Africa. Welcome to one of the most tolerant nations in the world. Welcome to our democracy where we have abolished the death penalty, permanently removed all criminal libel laws; clamped down on corruption; made tremendous progress in ruling justly; robustly fighting all forms of sexual and gender violence; taken progressive steps to assure gender empowerment and women’s equality; expanded access to justice and promoted and protected people’s rights; invested in human capital development as a national priority – free and quality education, quality and accessible healthcare, and food security.
“Welcome to the country where we believe confronting challenges from climate change, trafficking in persons, investing in science and innovation, to making institutions more effective, among others, defines a renewed spirit of purpose and nationhood. So let me again welcome every member of the delegation and all our friends in the diplomatic and consular corps to this dinner.
“America’s modern diplomatic relations with Sierra Leone started in the 1950s and have intensified since then. Through bilateral and multilateral agreements and engagements, America has contributed immensely to the socio-political and economic development of this nation whether through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps Volunteers, local NGOs, Government agencies, religious organisations, or direct interventions in communities.
“America’s footprints in areas of cooperation include food security, education, healthcare, access to justice, national and maritime security, heritage and cultural preservation, trade and investment, and more. We look forward to further broadening and deepening our relations.
“America has led by example and America has also challenged us to be better. For three straight years, we have passed all the critical indicators on the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s scorecard for ruling justly, for the control of corruption, and for investing in people. We are now compact eligible and we have identified health and sanitation and access to energy as key constraints on our development.
“We recognise and appreciate America’s global leadership in maintaining peace, security, and stability. Sierra Leone leads the Committee of Ten African nations for the reform of the United Nations and chairs the African peer Review Mechanism. Sierra Leone has been unanimously endorsed for a Non-Permanent Seat in the UN Security Council for 2024-2025. We count on your support and we look forward to working with the United States of America in solving global challenges from climate change to pandemics and instability.
“We share America’s undaunted resolve for promoting and protecting democracy, good governance, and human rights. America has been there for Sierra Leone even when dark clouds gathered over the horizon. But I am even more heartened by your commitment in your interview with Judd Devermont, the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in February last year.
“You re-echoed President Biden’s policy shift towards Africa in the usual eloquent Meek way. You argued that your goal is to reset United States’ relationship with Africa. Building on shared trust and mutual respect, you stated that you would rather focus on “shared challenges, expanding people-to-people relationships and exchanges, building partnerships to increase youth participation in the digital workforce, and championing a more robust presence across the continent.”
“You highlighted other possibilities of collaboration and cooperation on security; climate change (its opportunities and challenges), cultural heritage and preservation, promoting the creative industries; technical support to promote and facilitate trade, working with African stakeholders to imagine and construct a functional and fair post-AGOA world where Africa is an active participant; develop a youth workforce grounded in digital and STEM education; to support diaspora investments in Africa; and on good governance, among others. Sierra Leone looks forward to working very closely on crafting a mutually beneficial relationship that supports the goals of that foreign policy reset.
“Paramount Chief Meeks, I am truly touched by your thoughtfulness in making this trip with your illustrious delegation. I am humbled by your kind-spiritedness, moved by your commitment, and inspired by your leadership and passion. 18. From the depths of our hearts, welcome home. A Paramount Chief never stays far away from his people and his chiefdom. This is your chiefdom; we are your people. Welcome and thank you for your kind attention,” President Bio concluded.
In his acceptance speech after he was crowned Paramount Chief, Hon. P.C. Gregory Weldon Meeks extended appreciation to President Julius Maada Bio and the people of Sierra Leone for the hospitality given to him and his delegation, saying that he felt greatly honoured and privileged to trace his ancestral home to Sierra Leone and in Africa.
“This is an emotional day for me but am so glad that I am home. Barrack Obama may have Kenya, but I have Sierra Leone. When I look at your faces out here today, where this country is from, and where this country is heading. When I look at the progress that this government is making, a shining example of democracy right here in Sierra Leone. We are going to show the world and the rest of Africa that we will stay together. When we work together, we will lead West Africa, Africa and the world. A show of resilience of a people,” he said.
Congressman Mr. Gregory Meeks, you are more than welcome to your homeland we are all proud of you. Your statement “if H.E. Barack Obama can owned Kenya, well Sierra Leone is for you” that’s a remarkable statement, and thank you for your generosity. I used to see you in New York city but I have never come across to know that, you are from this great land Sierra Leone is I am correct. Today, I just wanted to remind our readers that; we have forgotten about the past, the word slavery was abolished since 1772, please my noble professors, whenever we received our Honorable blacks brothers and sisters from outside, when welcoming them in writing, we have to give them dignity and respect.
Our grandfathers sacrificed themselves for us, today the world is more civilized than ever, that’s why, our black brother became the first President in the United States, when no one of us should think of in the first place. Congressman, Mr. Gregory Meeks, I will talk to my friends and brothers over there, you have their votes I promised. May God protects our country and it’s leaders…. Congressman Safe return and your delegates . Amen.
Welcome Home, to the land of our great leader late Sengbeh Pieh, who took control of the slave ship and killed the captain and try to sail back to Africa. Unfortunately he and his group after escaping, were caiught by citizens offshore Montaiuk Point, in Long Island, New York. They were considered as properties but finally regained their freedom after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in their favor by restoring their freedom, which became a symbol in the movement to the Abolition Of Slavery.
This is the sort of home coming for African Americans, that were forcefully taken out of the continent hundreds of years ago that were sold to slavery, and hope to one day return to where it all started.A burden many African Americans carries and hope to achieve as one of their bucket list, but few are lucky enough to fulfil in their life time. There are points of departure dotted across the West African coast line. From Senegal, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. For Sierra Leoneans, majority of the human cargoes ended up in the Georgia, the Gullah people of South Carolina and the same people found in the State of Connecticut, USA, that welcomed president Momoh in his journey of discovery and recognition of our peoples in that part of the United States in the late 80s. Effectively this are Sierra Leonean citizens.
Paramount Chief Hon. PC Gregory Weldon Meeks, is amongst many high fyling members of the American legislative and judiciary, Holly Wood films stars, and ordinary African Americans that can trace their roots back to Sierra Leone. Chief Justice Clerance Thomas of the United States supreme Court is known to have traced his ancestry to the South of Sierra Leone. Indeed majority of African Americans have traced their roots in the South of Sierra Leone. So there is a lot going for our country if only we have a government, that can set up an international organisation under the tourism sector, working with like minded African Americans that organise a “JOURNEY OF SELF DISCOVERY TO THEIR ANCESTRAL HOMELANDS”. It will not only open up a whole chapter for African Americans knowing where it all started, but it will boost the interconnectivity that we know existed all along.
The Sierra Leone chamber of commerce will also reap the benefits both economically and boosting employments opportunities for our youths.And we can learn from each other and exchange ideas about the best way forward how to develop Sierra Leone for the betterment of all that calls it home. That despite four hundred years of separation, we are still and remain as one people and one tribe.