British film actor Idris Elba and his Canadian wife Sabrina Dhowre have been granted honorary Sierra Leone citizenship and a diplomatic passport on Friday.
This happened after Elba and his wife visited Sierra Leone (his father’s native country) for the first time. Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio conferred the passport to Elba and Dhowre at an emotional private ceremony at his colonial-era residence in the capital Freetown.
“I’m humbled and thankful for the opportunity to become a citizen of my father’s country, it’s an honour for our family,” Elba said.
The actor was born in London but his mother is from Ghana and his father from Sierra Leone.
Speaking in a mixture of standard English and British-accented Krio, Elba said he had wanted to visit the West African country earlier but “it was in turmoil and I was chasing my own dreams.”
His father and uncle left Sierra Leone for London in the 1960s and 1970s “with only two bags and prayers,” he said. Elba’s father died in 2013. But his uncle, as well as senior government ministers, attended the ceremony.
Elba, 47, is best known for his roles in Marvel franchise films such as “Thor” and “The Avengers”.
However, he is also a successful rapper and was named People magazine’s “sexiest man alive” in 2018 to boot.
“My heart is what I want to bring to Sierra Leone and what my heart brings is determination,” said Elba, who has expressed an interest in investing in eco-tourism in the country.
President Bio said he hoped Elba would help Sierra Leone shed its image as a source of blood diamonds and Ebola virus.
The diamond-rich former British colony is one of the world’s poorest countries and is still recovering nearly two decades after the end of a civil war which claimed some 120,000 lives.
It was also hit badly by West Africa’s 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.
“We want to tap into your network to be able to tell the world that the little nation they knew for only wars and Ebola and all the horrible stories is now a new Sierra Leone,” Bio said.