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General News
Kufuor punches the hornets nest on reparation 3/30/2007
Accra, March 29, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor might have stirred the hornet''s nest when he said that since some Africans played a facilitating role during the Trans Atlantic Slave trade the question of payment of reparation was not the best approach.

While what the President was reported to have said at Elmina at a ceremony to commemorate the 200 years of the abolition of the trade by Britain might be his personal view on the long running debate, it has set the media in motion.

This is because the payment of reparation is not only (has been) a controversial issue but also a passionate one for those who feel that with available overwhelming evidence nothing could stop the demand for reparation and will go any length to defend the claim.

Thus any apologetic approach to the issue sparks fierce reaction. Dr Edward Mahama, Leader of the People''s National Convention (PNC) reacted sharply to the President''s stand on the issue and wrote in a statement to the media; 93Whether as exported slaves for rapacious exploitation in the New World of the Americas and the Caribbean or as slaves in the various European colonies in Africa, all Africans and their descendants in the Diaspora have been and continue to this day to be predatory victims of the Europeans culture that places material values above human values.

"Therefore, it was an excuse of sound judgement for Mr Kufour, more so as the President of Ghana and Chairman of the African Union, to issue unsolicited apologies for the trans-Atlantic African slave root."

It is on record that a series of conferences had been held on the Reparation issue internationally and far reaching decisions taken urging the AU to assume leadership role in the fight for reparation.

Historians have rejected the argument or claim that the African was equally guilty and blamable for engaging in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade as his white counterpart in the capturing and offering of his fellow Blackman for sale into slavery during the more than 200 years that the heinous trade lasted.

They say the claim that the Blackman did not resist the slave trade, neither was he opposed to it and was thus an accomplice, is a soothing moralist theory the white slave masters were developing in collaboration with their African 93spin doctors" when the question of reparation is raised.

There is the overwhelming historical evidence that the African did not yield to the trade. It is therefore not true for people now to say that the African himself acquiesced to the trade.

Professor Hilary Beckles of the University of West Indies in Barbados in a paper presented to the International Conference Trans Atlantic Salve Trade in Accra, Ghana on August 30 to September 3, 2004 on the topic the African Resistance to the Trade spelt out a host of historical evidence that should clear the air about the accusation being leveled against the African.

The Conference, which has scholars, researchers, representatives from the West African Sub-Region, Africans in the Diaspora and participants from Europe and America was organised by the then Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City in collaboration with UNESCO with sponsorship from the Netherlands government.

Professor Beckles said: "Rebellion effectively indicates how most Africans felt about their entrapment and enslavement. European slaves denied that Africans resisted the transatlantic trade by emphasising the collaboration of some kings and nobles; but the evidence of rebellion - from general flight to armed resistance - is compelling and speaks of the trade as existing within a context of mass opposition.

"The transatlantic slave trade was imposed upon African societies by means of military terror. The existence of the many forts and castles, European monuments to war, self defence, and plunder, forming a chain link across the West African Coast, is evidence of the reign of violent military might."

"Resistance to enslavement at the hands of Europeans took on a different dimension from traditional forms of social protest in West Africa. It was an unfamiliar system of social oppression. Eurocentric notions of black inferiority, cultural disrespect, and indiscriminate reduction to chattel property were resisted by Africans. The evidence suggests the need to examine revolt and resistance at five stages: at the point of capture and sale, in transit to the coast, and in the bar racoons, on board ships on arrival in the Americas, the legacy.

"One of the earliest accounts of community resistance relates to the killing of a Danish nobleman, Vallarte, the first Northern European to sail to West Africa. He was captured by a large group of Wolofs off the Coast of Gore Island in 1448, and killed. His mission to kidnap slaves for sale in Portugal ended in disaster. The Spanish also experienced in 1475 a large scale African community rebellion. In this instance a Castilian vessel, with a Dutch crew, was captured off the coast of Guinea while attempting to kidnap people for enslavement. The entire crew and captain of the vessel were killed.

"Europeans were able, however, to secure alliances with many kings and nobles. Leaders, who resisted their involvement were targeted by European slavers for military destabilisation. European military intimidation, and the offering of attractive material incentives, ended with many African leaders, against the wishes of their people, participating in the trade. In some cases the decisions taken to participate related more to political survival than profiting, though this division became increasingly blurred over time.

"Philip Curtin''s research has shown that many kings and nobles restructured their systems of governance because of a new dependence on transatlantic slaving. Also, that slaving as clients of European merchants became the economic basis of some new States. Client governments raided neighbouring societies for the procurement of slaves.

Such States, described by Curtin as predatorily, increased their business efficiency over time. The restructuring of political power to support the economic dependence on slaving almost always involved the creation of large armies that unleashed violence across communities. "Scholars have also shown that increased State militarization and politically supported violence against communities were sponsored directly and indirectly by European slavers.

Such client States sprung up within the vicinity of slave forts. The Bambara State of Segu, formed about 1712, has been described as ''an enormous machine to produce slaves.''"

Slave raiding and trading were crucial to its structure and behaviour. The Europeans provided horses and guns to its leaders who supplied the slaves. In the early 17th century, one good horse could fetch up to 15 healthy slaves. This exchange was considered by Europeans as obtaining slaves on the cheap.

"African subjects, then, whether they lived within or without such client States, were exposed to the raiding forces of professional warriors. From Senegal to Angola, these new States sprung up, or were recreated from old States. One of their primary functions was to subvert and displace States and their leaders that were opposed to the slaving business.

"African communities, however, learnt how to defend themselves within this new context, and developed a culture of resistance against both the Europeans and their client political collaborators. Communities then, went beyond the pro-slaving interests of their leaders and established an opposition vanguard. Popular rebellion forced its way through the compliance of political leaders and set in train a culture of resistance that spread through communities. By so doing, they established an anti-slaving movement that was as significant politically as the client arrangements between kings, nobles, and European slavers.

With the above and other numerous evidences the African acted in supplying slaves to the trade under conditions which he or she could not have control over granted that the economic benefits the slave raiders derived from the trade superseded any human or moral consideration. Professor Joseph E. Inikori, a Lecturer in History at the University of Rochester, USA who said the issue of reparation should not be compromised on the pacific moralist theory that the African was as guilty as the white for indulging in the heinous human trade.

There was no doubt that the slave labour contributed greatly to the industrialisation of the Europe and the Americas.

The slaves were the producers of cotton, sugarcane, tea and other commodities, which engendered the foundation of economic developments of the west, while it destroyed and destabilised the economies of African states, especially those in the West Africa Region.

What Africa needed to do was to lay a firm scientific base through research like the type of conference that was held in Accra from August 30 to September 2, 2004 to enable the continent to have one voice in the fight for reparation.

The leadership of Africans through the African Union and the UN could take on the fight.

Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Director of African Humanities Institute Programme, University of Ghana, Legon, told the GNA in September 2004 after the Conference that the issue of reparation was worth pursuing and cautioned that if that was achieved it should not divide Africa.

He said a similar thing was done to Germany with the Marshall Plan after World War II and that of Africa should not just be wished away because of claims that the Africans also actively participated in the slave trade.

He said the effects of the slave trade dominated and colonialism worsened the economic development of Africa to such an extent that those from the developing countries could not say they even had a fair market for their produce now.

He asked whether it was the producer or the buyer who determined the price of commodities.

Prof Anyidoho said the leadership of Africans should be able to see through the machinations and manipulations by the continent by the developed countries that always played the game to their advantage. Western Countries must accept that their ancestors dehumanised Africans and must be prepared to pay reparations, Professor Hilary Beckles of the University of West Indies in Barbados said.

"The Whites must first admit that their engagement in the trade was a crime against humanity, which they are not ready to do. They are even yet to admit that there should be a settlement, which involved the application of the concepts of international law.

"They have to prove that the trade will not happen again. Then the repairing of the damage has to be done. From here we could have confession from the perpetrators of the trade that their action was human rights violation and it was for them to apologize, then the move for reconciliation could be put initiated and settlement procedures could be agreed on", Professor Beckles, who is a Black Activist, said. He said, "The Western World would want to resort to settlement of the Colonial damage. They do not wish to accept that it was a crime committed and do not wish to apologize.

This stand is not far from what British Prime Minister Tony Blair told President Kufuor during the latter''s visit to the UK that he Blair felt sorry and regretted that such a trade was undertaken by his country. Blair came short to apologizing.

This is where the snag is. This is where they whites beneficiaries of the trade wanted to divert attention. This is where they are saying that the Blackman was equally blamable as those who yielded to participating in the transaction.

Looking at the complexities of the issues President Kufuor must have been touched by a pacifist attitude in achieving peace to say in Elmina that 93Perhaps, the way forward is for us to show remorse and accord those who suffered enslavement and their successors their full human rights status."

Professor Beckles said, "It is our duty as Africans to make the Western world understand that it is not about financial support that we are demanding for when we demand reparation but that there should be the support for us to produce films, documents and slave museums and to make them available in every country that slavery took place to enable the younger generations to have more information about it and there should be funding of such research activities".


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