African and Caribbean nations agree on move to seek reparations for slavery

Slave plantation
Enslaved Africans working on a plantation (painting courtesy of the British Library)

A global movement to seek reparations for slavery was forged during a summit in Ghana, with the African Union partnering with Caribbean countries to form a “united front” to persuade European nations to pay for “historical mass crimes”. The partnership between the 55-member African Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of 20 countries will aim to intensify pressure on former slave-owning nations to engage with the reparations movement. Delegates also announced the establishment of a global fund based in Africa aiming to accelerate the campaign.

A draft proclamation circulated at the end of the four-day conference did not specify what form the reparations should take but announced that the African Union would explore “litigation options” and work with the United Nations to assess “whether acts of enslavement against Africans constituted serious violations of human rights at the time they were committed”. A finalised version of the document –  the Accra Proclamation –  is expected to be released this weekend.

Opening the conference, Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, said, “The entire period of slavery meant that our progress, economically, culturally, and psychologically, was stifled. There are legions of stories of families who were torn apart … You cannot quantify the effects of such tragedies, but they need to be recognised”. The “entire continent of Africa deserves a formal apology from the European nations involved in the slave trade”, he said, adding: “No amount of money can restore the damage caused by the transatlantic slave trade and its consequences. But, surely, this is a matter that the world must confront and can no longer ignore.”

African Union delegates traveled to Barbados in July to begin discussions on how to work jointly with Caribbean nations. Carla Barnett, CARICOM’s secretary general, told the conference, “We are at an important inflection point in the global movement for reparatory justice”. She said it was critical to “speak with one voice to advance the call for reparations”.

The British Foreign Office said an official attended the conference “as part of standard diplomatic engagement”, but the UK Government remains resistant to the concept of reparations. Asked earlier this year by the Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy whether he would offer a “full and meaningful apology for our country’s role in slavery and colonialism” and commit to reparatory justice, the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, replied “no”, adding that while it was important to have an inclusive and tolerant society, “trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward and is not something we will focus our energies on”. His approach is shared by the new foreign secretary, David Cameron, who traveled to Jamaica when he was prime minister in 2015 and acknowledged that slavery was “abhorrent in all its forms” but said he hoped “we can move on from this painful legacy”.

Delegates said they felt buoyed by evidence of growing willingness to accept the need to pay reparations – citing Glasgow University’s promise to pay £20m to atone for its historical links to the transatlantic slave trade.

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One Comment

  1. Why is it even being considered if the Colonization violated the human rights of African people globally? It was the most heinous violation of human rights ever known to man, a holocaust which continues to this day. Colonization and modern imperialism have put countries like Europe and America at the top of the economic, social and political ladders. To this very day, Europe and America still maintain that position by robbing the resources from Afrika at the expense of millions of Afrikan lives. All white people are beneficiaries of slavery and as the UK prime minister, Labour MP and Foreign Secretary have proven above, they are not willing to give up any of the ill-gotten privileges which their societies enjoy today, it is not even a consideration

    In my opinion, we need no apology from white people for Colonization and there are some things we must consider when it comes to reparations money and let me tell you why. Firstly, an apology means nothing! Without the action behind it to right the wrong there is no justice. Secondly, Reparations without race consciousness will only lead to Black people returning the money to the same white people who gave it to them. Hence Race consciousness must come before reparations.

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