Presidential Lodge, Hill Station, Freetown, Sunday 20 February 2022 – Chairman of the United States House Foreign Relations Committee, Honourable Gregory Weldon Meeks, with his delegation, comprising senior congressmen and women, has paid a courtesy call on His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio, saying the country is an example of a shining star of leadership in Africa.
He has lived a true American success story. Known for his compassionate and tenacious representation of his constituents and his coalition-building skills, Meeks, now in his thirteenth term, proudly 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, the President crowned Congressman Gregory Meeks as Paramount Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone at a short ceremony earlier in the day and later addressed them at a dinner organised in their honour at the Presidential Lodge on Hill Station.
President Julius Maada Bio recalled that their rice-growing, rice-eating Gullah cousins from the South Carolina low country would say “Cumya can’t tell binya”, meaning who arrived (cumyas) could not tell those who had been there.
“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.
He added that in the last two years his government had welcomed home brothers and sisters from the African Diaspora and assured them that Sierra Leone was home for them and would always be home away from home.
“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,” he said.
He stated that America was leading by example and had also challenged them to be better, citing the three straight years record of Sierra Leone passing 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,” he said.
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 since they arrived, 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.
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