Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 April 2021:
Dr Julius Maada Bio today granted Sierra Leonean citizenship and presented the country’s passport to a group of African Americans Returning Home. Addressing the new citizens of Sierra Leone, this is what the president said:
May I reconfirm what you have already experienced – that home is indeed home? I am sure you have fully experienced Sierra Leone in all its beauty – the food, the fashion, the arts and craft, the music, the culture, and the warmth of your brothers and sisters here.
You have experienced the exhilarating beaches, the serene mountains, the exciting wildlife, and there is ever so more to discover.
You are also surrounded by a rich history – a history that unites us; a history of our common ancestry. Even as you sit now, you sit on the original Fort Thornton. Walk out of those doors into the garden and look left (100 metres down), and you will see the Cotton Tree. It is older than the United States of America.
It was where in 1792 the freed slaves prayed, rejoiced, and sang the hymn: Blow ye the trumpet, blow! The gladly solemn sound let all the nations know, to earth’s remotest bound: The year of jubilee is come; return, ye ransomed sinners, home; return, ye ransomed sinners, home.
Walk another half a mile from the Cotton Tree and there is the wharf from which freed slaves returned home in 1787 and founded this historic city, Freetown. I am sure you have felt the joy of coming back home – that strange but familiar feeling – that “WOW” feeling and goosebump moment – that “pinch me now” and “broad smile” moment.
Well, this is not some touristic visit. You are home. This is the place where your ancestors planted rice; played the drums and told stories around the fireplace. This is the place where your ancestors walked and breathed. This is home.
I am sure you have been to Bunce Island and experienced the place where the last sad goodbyes and prayers were said. Our mutual ancestors endured the torture and the horror of the Atlantic passage. They endured the pain and humiliation of the plantations and the horror of Jim Crow.
But they sat down together, stood up together, and marched together from Topeka, Kansas, to Selma and Birmingham, for their rights and their dignity. They sang “We shall overcome.” They believed in the dream. They got the vote. CITIZENSHIP – AFRICAN AMERICANS.
We stand in solidarity every day – with Jamar Clarke, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, George Floyd, and Daunte Wright. As President Biden reminded us nine days ago, “systemic racism” remains a stain on the soul of America. He singled out “the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans, the profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day.”
But here, all lives matter. Every day. Welcome home. We have had our share of war, trauma, pestilence, and bad governance. But just as you have persevered, so have we.
After sixty years as a sovereign nation, we have resolved to turn in a new direction – where we manage our expansive deposits of diamonds, gold, rutile, iron ore, and bauxite; where we build more roads and bridges, invest in ICT, expand access to electricity and healthcare, protect women from sexual and gender-based violence and provide good quality education and food security for every child.
We are the 5th most peaceful country in Africa with one of the lowest risks of COVID-19. We have a free press and an open society. We are putting in place more pro-business and pro-investment policies and incentives in place.
We welcome you to acquire land, live in communities, build capacity, and start a new life without the worries of that other place. Already, your brothers and sisters have taken advantage of these incentives.
The United House of Ancestry continues its laudable work in facilitating the integration of brothers and sisters and supporting infrastructural and heritage preservation. Brothers and sisters have supported education and community schools, provided solar panels, boreholes for water, roofed mosques, supported agriculture, and provided livelihood support for vulnerable people.
There is more to do and I am gratified that my Minister of Tourism will today sign a memorandum of understanding that provides a framework for more cooperation. I am also aware of and very proud of the work of Free Yannoh Bangura, Dynast Amir, Dr. Adrienne Hunter, Dr. Sonya Bug-Alsoton, Karmen Thomas and many other brothers and sisters who are making an impact already in this country.
There is a lot more my Government is ready to facilitate to harness these opportunities, firm up these linkages, and map out these networks of interventions. We are open to Diaspora bonds and capital markets.
We are open to easing constraints around land rights, housing, investments, skills transfers, taxes as you make your decision to relocate here – whether permanently or semi-permanently. CITIZENSHIP- AFRICAN AMERICANS.
Today, you have become one of us and I am personally handing over your certificates of citizenship and passport. Remember to protect the good name and image of our collective home at all times.
I now formally declare each of you citizens of this our great Republic of Sierra Leone. Thank you.