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Sierra Leone grants Idris Elba, wife honorary citizenship

December 20, 2019 GMT

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Idris Elba and his wife have been granted honorary citizenship in his late father’s homeland of Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leonean authorities gave diplomatic passports Friday to the British star and his Canadian wife, Sabrina Dhowre, asking them to serve as “brand ambassadors” for the country.

While Sierra Leone is home to chimpanzees, pristine beaches and surfing, the country is more widely known as the scene of a brutal war from 1991 until 2002, which was depicted in the film “Blood Diamond.”

Rebounding tourism was then badly hurt again by the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic that killed nearly 4,000 people in Sierra Leone alone from the contagious disease.

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On Friday, President Julius Maada Bio had breakfast with Elba and his wife.

The leader encouraged them to help “change the narrative of Sierra Leone from a war-torn and Ebola-affected country to a country that is full of investment opportunities and one of best destinations for tourism,” a presidential spokesman said.

Elba, 47, was raised in the United Kingdom by his Sierra Leonean father and Ghanaian mother.

The actor, best known for his roles on “The Wire” and “Luther,” was named “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2018 by People magazine.

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This story has been corrected to show that Sierra Leone’s civil war was from 1991 until 2002.