Time For Africa To Get Their Full Reparations Fund

At the opening of the Accra Reparations Summit, held at the Kempinski Hotel, on Tuesday, 14th November 2023, delegates agreed on Thursday November 16 to establish a Global Reparations Fund to seek compensation owed to millions of Africans enslaved centuries ago during the transatlantic slave trade.

The Accra conference on reparations adds to growing demands for reparations after an estimated 12 million Africans were forcibly removed by European nations between the 16th and 19th centuries and enslaved on plantations that made it possible to create wealth at the cost of poverty.

Centuries after the end of the slave trade, people of African descent worldwide continue to face systemic racial discrimination and racist attacks, a recent report from a special United Nations forum concludes which supports reparations as a “cornerstone of justice in the 21st century”.

“It is time that Africa, whose sons and daughters had their freedoms controlled and were sold into slavery, also received reparations,” Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Akufo-Addo, told the conference.

The event was attended by senior government officials from across Africa as well as the diaspora community.

Slave reparations have become an issue that the world “must confront and can no longer ignore, denouncing the British and other European countries for enriching themselves during the slave trade while “enslaved Africans did not receive a cent”, President Akufo-Addo added.

“Let me reiterate that the call for reparations is not a plea for alms, but a valid demand for justice. If reparations can rightfully be paid to victims and descendants of the victims of the Holocaust, so can reparations also be paid to the descendants of the victims of the Slave Trade. It has been four hundred (400) years, and we want closure to this tragedy.”

President Akufo-Addo stated that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which begun with some twenty (20) slaves from West Africa being forcibly sent in 1619 to the United States of America, was devastating to the continent and to the African Diaspora, as it stifled the economic, cultural and psychological progress of Africa.

“When the British ended slavery, all the owners of enslaved Africans received reparations to the tune of twenty million pounds sterling, the equivalent today of twenty billion pounds sterling, but enslaved Africans themselves did not receive a penny. Likewise in the United States, owners of slaves received three hundred dollars for every slave they owned; the slaves themselves received nothing,” he said.

He added that Jewish people, six million of whom perished in the concentration camps of Hitlerite Germany, received reparations, including homeland grants and support.

“So, it is time for Africa, twenty million of whose sons and daughters had their freedoms curtailed and sold into slavery, also to receive reparations. No amount of money can restore the damage caused by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and its consequences, which have spanned many centuries. Surely, this is a matter that the world must confront, and can no longer ignore,” he indicated.

The President explained that the efforts made by countries such as Senegal, Nigeria and Benin in regaining possession of some of their cultural properties that were illegally moved out of their territories were successful.

Ghana, he added, has also successfully recovered some of its stolen cultural properties and relics, pointing to the collaboration of Government and elders of Ahanta to return the severed head of Nana Badu II, who was executed in 1838.

Other success stories, he stated, include the return of some family collections of the Ashanti Royal Family and an Asante Stool in 1985, by the British Government.

Delegates at the Accra conference did not specify how such a reparations fund would work. But Gnaka Lagoke, assistant professor of history and Pan-African studies, said it should be used to “correct the problems” the continent faces in all sectors of its economy.

The compensation is based on “the moral and legal rights and dignity of the people,” said Ambassador Amr Aljowailey, strategic advisor to the vice-chairperson of the African Union Commission, who read the resolution titled “Proclamation of ‘Accra’.

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In addition to the Global Reparations Fund, which will be supported by an expert committee established by the AU Commission in collaboration with African nations, ” a special envoy will engage in campaigns as well as litigation and legal efforts,” Mr. Aljowailey said.

Activists said reparations should go beyond direct financial payments and also include development assistance to countries, restitution of colonized resources, and systemic correction of oppressive policies and laws.

The amount of compensation will be determined in a “negotiated settlement (that) will benefit the masses,” said Nkechi Taifa, director of the US-based Reparation Education Project.

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