It was an occasion worth celebrating as over 100 Africans-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans made it official by becoming Ghana’s newest citizens in a special ceremony Wednesday.
One by one, the new citizens crossed the stage to collect their citizenship certificates and shake hands with their new President Nana Afufo-Addo, Quartz Africa reported. Then, a judge administered the oath of allegiance in a moment highlighting The Year of Return 2019, a movement marking 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived to the modern-day U.S.
“On behalf of the government and people of Ghana, I congratulate you once again on resuming your identity as Ghanaians,” Afufo-Addo told the crowd.
A total of 126 expatriates gained their citizenship.
While Africans were kidnapped and taken to other parts of the Americas prior to landing aboard a ship in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, that year is largely regarded as the onset of what would become the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. An estimated 12.5 million Africans were snatched from West Africa and shipped away, landing in North America, South America and the Caribbean.
Over the course of this year, Ghana has hosted a number of programs and events encouraging those in the diaspora who are descendants of those who were forcibly sent away to finally make their way back home. President Akuyfo-Addo embarked on a five-nation tour of the Caribbean earlier this summer where he approved a landmark agreement allowing visa-free arrangements for citizens of Jamaica and Ghana.
“We can’t have visas standing in the way of those relations, so the decision has been taken by my Government… to provide visa-free arrangements for Jamaicans in Ghana, and facilitate and make it easier for you to accept our invitation to come and join us for the Year of Return,” he said at the time.
Speaking at Wednesday’s ceremony, the president highlighted Ghana’s “unique position” as the site for nearly 75 percent of the dungeons built along Africa’s coast and through which slaves were transported.
“And that’s why we had a responsibility to extend the hand of welcome, back home to Africans in the diaspora,” he added. “Many have responded to this call, and the ‘Year of Return’ has so far proven to be a joyful and learning experience all round for all of us.”
The idea of a homecoming for the “brothers and sisters” who were stolen dates back to the nation’s inception in 1957 and was first championed by Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, who preached Pan-Africanism and unity. Decades later in 2001, the West African country would pass the Right to Abode law giving Americans of African descent the right to gain citizenship in Ghana.
“The most valuable possession that was taken away from us was our identity and our connection; it was like severing the umbilical cord,” Rabbi Kohain, who spoke on behalf of the new citizens said at Wednesday’s ceremony.
“But tonight, our identity, the dignity, the pride that has been absent is restored here.”