Joining other well-meaning Sierra Leoneans home and abroad in the public outcry against the Sierra Leone Immigration Department for adopting a Chimpanzee as the symbol on the country’s new passport, I would like to raise the grounds below as to why the Immigration Department and relevant authorities should change the Chimpanzee symbol on the new passport.
Nowhere in the history of Sierra Leone is a Chimpanzee said to be our national symbol or the animal associated with our national symbol. The identity of a nation is directly tied to the history of the people. Historically, the Lion is the animal adopted and depicted on our symbol. In 1462, Sierra Loea was the name the Portuguese explorer, Pedro de Sintra, gave to the peninsular mountain range hovering over what is today known as Freetown, meaning Lion Mountains or Mountain on Lions. The British later founded the Crown Colony in 1808 and translated Sierra Loea as Sierra Leone. They later in 1896 extended their rule to the Protectorate. This name Sierra Leone (Lion Mountains) survived as the name of the country. The Lion symbol was therefore adopted in 1960 for the country’s Coat of Arms and the country gained political independence in 1961 with this Coat of Arms having three Lions on it.
TAKE NOTE that the adoption of a Chimpanzee for the new passport therefore creates a great contradiction and discoloration of our historical identity and this automatically affects our legal, political, and diplomatic identity. Every country has one national symbol and there is no discrepancy around the State’s identity. The State and its citizens should be identified with one symbol and that symbol should relate to their history and it must be consistent.
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Why would the Immigration Department depart from our history when thinking about an animal for the new passport to choose a Chimpanzee that has a very heavy negative ideology associated with it as we will read below?
As other commentators have mentioned on various platforms, the Chimpanzee image has been used and continues to be used in Western countries to make derogatory remarks against dark skinned people. (We are not “Black” by the way and Europeans are not “White”. Understanding basic colour differences shows a society’s level of civilization). Back to our topic, the Chimpanzee is unfortunately the animal used to reinforce racism against Africans all over the world.
What the Sierra Leone Immigration Department has done in other words is that they are giving scope to racist people around the world to amplify, deepen and heighten racist behaviors against Sierra Leoneans whenever and wherever we produce our passports overseas. Whether this action by the Immigration Department was negligent or intentional will continue to form part of the public discourse.
The passport among all other documents is the “life” of a citizen the moment you attempt to and eventually step foot on a foreign soil. It is similarly the summation of a person’s citizenship and all the rights and obligations that derive from that legal identity at home and abroad. The book Zwize Banzi is Dead by Athol Fugard, et al, is a good literature that helps us understand the power of one’s citizenship identity both at home and in a foreign land. We don’t want this all important life document to contain an image that gives people in the outside world the latitude to spew racism at us. The State must at all times protect its citizens against all sorts of insecurity and racial insecurity is one.
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Please change the Chimpanzee symbol!
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