By Murtala Mohamed Kamara

To many it was surprising when Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma decided to give citizenship to the 25 year acting veteran Isaiah Washington after he traced his ancestral roots through DNA to the Mende and Temne people of Sierra Leone.

The ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star became the first African American to get citizenship through DNA, and President Koroma became the first African leader to award citizenship based on DNA. It is not surprising when a few days ago Africa’s most populated nation, Nigeria, decided to follow the footsteps of Sierra Leone by granting citizenship to Mrs. Hope Sullivan Masters, an African American woman who also traced her roots to the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

In an interview earlier for Holland based www.africanews.com, Washington recalled on one occasion when he was travelling with President Koroma in New York for the United Nation General Assembly meeting as a Special Adviser: “As the train pulled out of the station I could see that Minister (Zainab) Bangura and President Koroma were tired. I knew I had to make my case, and quick. Before I could finish my spiel on the importance and historical significance of obtaining my dual citizenship, President Koroma smiled at me and said: ‘I understand what it is that you are trying to do and I support it. I am aware of W.E.B. Dubois’s teachings and I am of the same school of thought. I have had many ask me, ‘Why are you giving this man citizenship?’ and I say to them, ‘What are you all so afraid of?’ I sat there silent for several seconds and then said, ‘My sentiments exactly sir. Thank you for your time. I will shut up and let you rest.”

Inspired by this discovery Washington decided to set up an elementary school through his Gondobay Manga Foundation in Sierra Leone. He uses his personal resources and commits himself to make a better life for the people of Sierra Leone.

I first met Washington on his last visit to Sierra Leone. By then he was in the country to take oath as a Sierra Leonean and collect his passport. We had a three hour meeting at Hotel Barmoi in Aberdeen. We shared our dreams and aspirations and how we intend to make Sierra Leone a better place. During the conversation, I noticed Washington had bigger plans, but what I could not comprehend was how is he was going to make these plans come through. It was after I arrived in the United States for The Africa Policy Forum that I understand what the father of three was actually talking about.

Washington has been criss-crossing the United States all in the name of Sierra Leone. He has had over dozens of interviews on high profile TV networks and making statements as guest speaker at over 100 events for Sierra Leone. During the five days Africa Policy Forum he introduced me to several people including investors, philanthropists and celebrities, who will soon visit the former war-torn nation to contribute their quota to the development of Sierra Leone.

Furthermore, a US$2 million dollars worth of medical equipment, which was made possible by him, is on its way to the Bo Government Hospital in Southern Sierra Leone. He has also negotiated for two other companies that will provide prosthetics for amputees, clean water from rain catching systems and also garbage collection for communities in Sierra Leone.

Whether in his professional life as an actor, producer, writer, motivational speaker or activist Washington has passionately committed himself for the development of Sierra Leone. His new documentary film – ‘Passport to Sierra Leone’ produced by The Africa Channel is now playing on cable. He recently appeared as Coach Brian -Buddy- Simmons in ‘Hurricane Season’ starring Forest Whitaker. He will produce and star in the upcoming Brazilian film ‘Area Q’, which is expected to be in theaters in March 2011. ‘A MAN FROM ANOTHER LAND: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life’ is also expected on stands in April 2011.

Washington has and continues to work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the people of Sierra Leone.

Making history as an African American accomplishing my dual citizenship based on DNA is a great thing. Finally, I have a people and a nation to connect with on the African continent to learn from and grow with as I have learned and grown in America. I will not let the people of Sierra Leone down,” he said.

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