In Africa, demands for reparations grow
In the latest sign of the movement’s increasing momentum, delegates at the Accra Reparation Conference last week agreed to establish a global reparation fund
• BENITA VAN EYSSEN | ISAAC MUGABI
It is time for Africa — whose sons and daughters had their freedoms controlled and were sold into slavery — to also receive reparations,” said Ghana’s President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo at a recent reparations conference held in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Akufo-Addo’s demand for compensation for the millions of African people sold into slavery, and for other colonial-era injustices inflicted on the continent, are part of a growing world-wide push for compensation.
In the latest sign of the movement’s increasing momentum, delegates at the Accra Reparation Conference last week agreed to establish a global reparation fund. The African Union (AU) and the 20-member Caribbean Community, known as CARICOM, are partnering to form what AU Commission Vice-Chair Monique Nsanzabaganwa called “a united front” to right historical injustices and ensure the payment of reparations.
Speaking at the conference, Nsanzabaganwa stressed that Africa had “borne the brunt of history’s injustices, and endured the ramifications of a past marked by slavery, colonization and exploitation.” “We must acknowledge that these injustices have had a long-term impact, the consequences of which are still felt today,” she said. “The demand for reparations is not an attempt to rewrite history or to continue the cycle of victimization. It’s a call to recognize the undeniable truth and right the wrongs that have gone unpunished for far too long and continue to thrive presently,” Nsanzabaganwa added.
Details on how the global fund would operate are still fuzzy. At least 12.5 million Africans were kidnapped and forcibly transported by European ships and sold into slavery from the 15th to the 19th century, although some estimates put that number at 20 or 30 million. Those who survived the brutal voyage ended up toiling under inhumane conditions in the Americas, mostly in Brazil and the Caribbean, ensuring huge profits for their owners.
The slave trade was dominated by Britain and Portugal, although the US, Netherlands, Spain, France, Denmark and Sweden were also heavily involved. Anna Hankings-Evans, a German-Ghanaian lawyer with a focus on international economic laws, said it was “enriching” to work together with descendants of enslaved Africans from Caribbean and American nations on the quest for reparations.
“I think it is so crucial for us to come together and benefit from each other’s thought processes,” she told DW on the margins of the conference. “While our experiences are very unique, nevertheless our power lies in togetherness.” Earlier this month, South African politician Julius Malema joined the debate, after King Charles III’s visit to Kenya in October. “The British… have got no business putting their foot here [in Kenya], except they should pay reparations to Kenyans,” he said.
In Kenya, King Charles spoke of “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence” under British rule, without saying the word “sorry.” But on social media, Kenyans were less interested in an apology than in tangible reparations. The month before, the Dutch king and queen were confronted by an angry group of indigenous Khoi and San people protesting their visit to South Africa.
As the royal couple toured Cape Town’s Slave Lodge, which once held slaves belonging to the Dutch East India Company, a group of Khoi and San leaders shouted slogans about Dutch colonizers stealing land from their ancestors. They held up signs saying, “We want compensation.”