Not less than 22 African Americans granted Sierra Leone citizenship

On Tuesday, Sierra Leone granted citizenship to 22 African Americans who, through DNA analysis, traced their roots to the West African country.

President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone urged diaspora Africans to take advantage of opportunities in their “ancestral home” when, according to a statement from the presidency, he granted passports to new citizens at a ceremony held at the State House in Freetown.

President Bio stated that Sierra Leone, through repressive dictatorships, epidemics and disasters, had come a long way from slavery and colonialism, and that the objective of his government was to restore its dignity and open it up to the rest of the world.

The majority of the new citizens have traced their roots to the southern Bo and northern Tonkolili districts, officials said.

“This is the land of our mutual ancestors who were to later work rice fields and plantations that sustained the economies of the 13 British Colonies in the Americas,” Bio said.

“This is the land of Sengbeh Pieh of the Amistad revolt. This is the land of the rice coast, of the Gullahs, of folktales about the trickster, of handicraft, of foodways, of seeking rituals, and the call and response of African-American song and dance.”

In 2008, after tracing his roots to Sierra Leone via DNA analysis, Hollywood actor Isaiah Washington became the first African American to be granted citizenship by an African nation. His “back home” journey, where he was crowned boss, is the subject of a 2010 Hollywood film.

Since then, several African Americans, including Whoopi Goldberg, a star in the anti-apartheid blockbuster Sarafina, who also traced her origins to Sierra Leone, have developed an interest in tracing their roots to the continent.

There is a rich history in Sierra Leone tied to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The tale of the Amistad Revolt, led by Sengbeh Pieh, a Sierra Leonean anti-slavery campaigner, is notable.

Pieh, known as Joseph Cinqué in the western world, is of Mende origin, one of Sierra Leone’s two largest ethnic groups. On the Spanish slave ship La Amistad, he led the infamous revolt of many Africans.

According to The EastAfrican, the government of Sierra Leone hopes to sell the country to the outside world using this history.

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