The Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt on Saturday 29th April 2023 conferred citizenship and presented passports to 50 African-Americans who have traced their roots to Sierra Leone at which ceremony she asserted that government is extremely delighted that they are coming back home and urged them to make a full transition as Sierra Leone is open, warm and friendly in addition to reaching out to government officials when they need help.
The emotional event was held at the National Museum on Siaka Stevens Street in Freetown.
According to the Minister, the day is extraordinary because this is the very first time someone is deputizing the President to confer citizenship and enlightened that the return of African Americans to Sierra Leone has been going on since 2018.
The Minister further informed that the African Union has declared the diaspora as the Sixth Region, that the African Union places a lot of premium on the Sixth Region and that a lot of activities are going on citing exchange programs between Sierra Leone and American universities, trade and business organizations.
Dr. Pratt continued that the history of Sierra Leone is built on slavery and colonialism and that she is thrilled by the testimonies of the African-Americans affirming that there are a lot of opportunities the country offers.
She added that Ghana is ahead of Sierra Leone in root tourism and encouraged the African-Americans to be Ambassadors of the country by encouraging others to return home through partnerships and building relationships as well as market Sierra Leone abroad though the social media as the decision they have taken is an important milestone and that government is looking forward to their various projects and endeavors.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Mr. Kwame Yankson acclaimed the Minister for transforming the Ministry from a moribund state to flagship institution.
Earlier, Mrs. Ann-Marie Kamara, Administrative Officer, Monuments and Relics Commission (MRC) welcomed all at the ceremony, commended the African-Americans for taking the bold step to return to their ancestral home and recalled that over the years over a thousand African-Americans have traced their roots to Sierra Leone.
Mr. Francis Momoh, Research Officer, MRC assured the African Americans that coming home is no mistake after they were disconnected from their ancestors and that the event is epoch-making.
In their testimonies, some of the African-Americans including the Turay and Sankoh-Yillah families expressed appreciation to the government, that they are grateful for the opportunity to restore the memory of reconnecting with their ancestors, that the event is an emotional journey to be part of their ancestry, family and descendants and that the event is also a privileged that words cannot express underscoring that the trip has been amazing.
Others revealed that they have invested in agriculture, animal husbandry and commended government for allowing them to invest, called on others to be committed with their resources, mind and soul in their own country of Sierra Leone and assured that they are here to stay.
One of the African-Americans revealed that he has an office at Wellington Street in central Freetown and house in Freetown, appealed to his compatriots to network and build relationships, that they have leased 7,000 acres of land in Tonkolili and Kono respectively for farming for which they have brought in tractors, fertilizers and other implements and also shared some of their successes and failures.
Another revealed that she is in the country to support her husband, that she is proud to be a Sierra Leonean, that she would vote for the first time in the June elections while another disclosed that he is supporting root tourism as well as traditional spiritualism.
The other African-American revealed that he is training youths at the beach to play American football free of charge asserted that the event is symbolic due to the testimonies.
The Chief Immigration Officer, Mr. Andrew Jai Kaikai and other dignitaries witnessed the ceremony.
Highlights of the emotional event were the conferring of Sierra Leonean citizenship on the 50 African-Americans by the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and presentation of their passports to them as well as cultural performances by the Sierra Leone National Dance Troop.