Congressman Gregory Meeks (Official Photo)


The Embassy of Sierra Leone in Washington D.C. hosted U.S  Congressman Gregory Meeks, a Democratic Member of the House of  Representatives from Queens, New York, who recently became Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The invitation for the  evening was made by Ambassador Sidique Abou- Bakarr Wai of Sierra  Leone the host. Also invited were Ambassador Seydou Kabore of Burkina  Faso, Ambassador Kerfalla Yansene of Guinea, Ambassador Frederic  Eden Hegbe of Togo, Ambassador Barfour Adjei Barwuah of Ghana,  Ambassador George Patten of Liberia, Ambassador Mahmadou Nimaga  of Mali and Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana of Rwanda. Former NYC  Commissioner Patricia Gatling, Rev. Dr. Abdul K. Sesay, Dr. Fouad Sheriff,  Rakie Macarthy, Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Sierra Leone were  among the other dignitaries present. 

Representative Gregory Meeksis the first African-American to be elected Chairman of the United States Congress Foreign Affairs Committee. Hon.  Patricia Gatling the former Human Rights Commissioner for New York  City introduced Chairman Meeks, noting the historic importance of this  appointment in the 199 years of the existence of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  

The Africa Ambassadors representing their nations in the United States  present at the dinner seized the opportunity to present their countries  challenges, opportunities, and resources to the Chairman. They  expressed their heighten expectation for future collaboration with 

President Biden’s new administration for the mutual benefit of the 54  countries on the continent of Africa. The Chairman at this point noted his  long-standing friendship with Vice President Kamala Harris which pre dated her time in the Senate. 

International security concerns were paramount among the issues  presented to the Chairman. Among the potential strategic partnerships with the United States and the individual African governments were  military. The African continent is in dire need of enhanced security  resources especially in the Sahara region, Nigeria and East Africa in  defending their coastal waters.  

African representatives promoted the agricultural advantage and  potential of the continent calling for partnerships with the United States private sector to ensure worldwide food security in the future. Africa will have the highest number of young people in the world, and therefore  education and human resource development must be invested in the  continent’s youth. The natural resources of Africa need to be for the  benefit of Africans and therefore legally protected; the Ambassadors  requested assistance from United States in achieving this goal. Also  mentioned in terms of economic development of Africa included the  textile industry. The group further appealed to President Biden’s  administration to review financial Aid conditionalities to Africa. It was  also pointed out the humanitarian crises along the Mediterranean Sea  with the youth of Africa attempting to migrate to the western world  placing themselves in great peril and danger. 

Climate change was extensively discussed, and the expectation for the  United States to lead the world in this direction remain a sine qua non to  African leaders. Most of the Ambassadors in their individual comments  observed that America is still yet to tap into the huge natural, human and  economic potential Africa is offering. The relationship between Africa 

and America should be strengthened, not allowing the existing gap to  grow further with China, Russia and other nations rushing to fill. The  Ambassadors expressed their frustration in this area to Chairman Meeks  over their countries’ recent relationship with the United States through  the previous administration. 

In engaging the House Committee Chairman on Foreign Affairs,  Ambassador Sidique Abou- Bakarr Wai reiterated the priority areas of His  Excellency Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio in Human Capital  Development, Healthcare, Agriculture and Infrastructure development.  Ambassador Sidique Abou Bakarr Wai thanked Representative Gregory  Meeks for his role in making the Millennium Challenge Corporation  compact available to Sierra Leone. He further reminded the  Congressman that Sierra Leone is in compliance with the State  Department and Homeland Security for the lifting of the Visa ban that  was imposed on Sierra Leone since 2017 but there is still delay. Sierra  Leone wishes to take advantage of its deep-water ports, its coastal  waters and defend the resources within its’ boundaries. Ambassador Wai  stated he has enjoyed a long-standing friendship with Chairman Meeks  spanning over 30 years working together in New York on law  enforcement, civil right and economic development issues. 

In his responding comments, Chairman Gregory Meeks thanked  Ambassador Sidique Abou- Bakarr Wai for giving him the opportunity to  meet with this group of distinguished Ambassadors from Africa.  Chairman Meeks expressed that it was his pleasure and honor for  Ambassador Wai to keep this relationship with him for this many years.  Meeks emphatically allayed any fears of the African Ambassadors in the  United States as he has the fifty-four countries of Africa as a priority of  his chairmanship.

“My DNA tells me that Sierra Leone is my ancestral land, and my people  are from the Mende group, and Africa is my Motherland.”, Meeks noted.  “We are all committed to the development of the African continent”. Chairman Meeks said his leadership as Chairman of the Committee of  Foreign Affairs will promote and change the relationship with the African  continent. “I want to work closely with the African Development Bank,  African Union, ECOWAS, and other regional groups. Through inter 

continental trade, we will make Africa economically sustainable and  ultimately prosperous. Through partnership, we will work on renewable  energy, building institutions and technology. My office will always be  opened to you all. I will physically travel as I have done in the past with  colleagues from Congress so that we may see for ourselves. One of our  prioritiesisto promote Free Education for all Primary studentsin Africa.” 

Congressman Meeks promised to attract African Americans to return to  Africa not just as tourists but as entrepreneurial business men and  women. “Together, we will be addressing food shortage and enhancing  agricultural production, monitoring security, climate change, piracy, and  illegal fishing in Africa. We need strong investment with our African  partners”. He cited the support of his colleagues in the Congressional  Black Caucus in particular Congresswomen Karen Bass and Barbara Lee.  The Chairman concluded that the time to promote and enhance  relationships between the 54 African countries and the United States is  now. The Chairman concluded the evening by stating “We have a lot of  work to do together”.