By State House Communications
President Dr Julius Maada Bio and Vice President Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh have received the first copies of the new securitized national passports from the Chief Immigration Officer, Andrew Jaiah Kaikai. The president also conferred Sierra Leonean citizenship to 109 African diasporans.
The new national passport is an upgraded electronic version of the previous one with special security features to avert potential forgery and cloning of the country’s passport, according to the officials.
“I feel elated to be here as part of the continuation of the process leading to the provision of affordable securitized passports for the citizens of Sierra Leone. This passport merit International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recognition,” Minister of Internal Affairs, David Panda-Noah, told the President.
He added that as part of the President’s directives to transform the immigration system, they had engaged the E-passport contractor to upgrade the existing passport to include special securitized features.
“I am proud to inform you that the new national passport meets all ICAO and other international standards. The chip embedded in the passport makes it electronically readable and could be used at any E-gate,” he noted.
While conferring citizenship status to diasporans, President Julius Maada Bio congratulated them as they subscribed to the oath of allegiance and described the event as one that had been the climax of a historic journey after months and years of searching for their ancestral roots.
“As a people, we have always opened our hands and offered smiles to our brothers and sisters making this momentous journey back home, whether from the forced migration of slavery or a voluntary movement that we collectively call the Africa Diaspora. African Americans have been tracing their roots lately to Africa to reconnect with their forefathers and their ancestors.
“Sadly, the history of slavery has always been etched on our minds because our brothers and sisters were captured and sold from the early 16th to the late 18th century. Our country was at the heart of that history too”.
In 1675, Bunce Island Slave Fortress, a major enslavement and exportation hub in the Sierra Leone Rivers, was used for the transportation of enslaved Africans in their thousands. In 1787, the colony of Freetown was declared a settlement for freed slaves. Hence, the first set of free men and women, referred to as the black poor, were sent to Freetown,” the president added.
President Bio said he believed the future of Sierra Leone could not be defined by the agonizing history of slavery, adding, that was why his government was implementing the most audacious human capital development program that could support over two million children with free quality education nationwide.
“This is the new Sierra Leone. We want to build a progressive, educated, and investor-friendly nation, but as we continue this new journey, we also know that our nation’s sustained development needs the genuine collaboration of her diasporas. Therefore, over the years, we have been heartened by the homecoming of hundreds from the Sierra Leonean African Diaspora. Some have not just subscribed to the oath, collected passports, and returned, but they are already making a difference in many communities.
He closed by encouraging them to be good ambassadors in rebranding and promoting Sierra Leone, urging them to optimize the Sierra Leone diaspora resources for the benefit of the nation by exploring trade and investment opportunities.