Reparation for Africa: Time to act
Beyond the scourge of slavery and colonialism, Africa remains underdeveloped and trapped in an unjust world order, with numerous socio-economic problems.
Notable among them are the unbridled exploitation of its natural resources, environmental degradation, unfair trade relations, indebtedness, unemployment, brain drain, corruption and poor governance.
The response Africa has received from those responsible for its dismal state has been token palliatives, including donor aid and budgetary support.
The activities of multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, IMF, and the like have made little impact in bringing about the radical development that the continent needs.
Novel interventions are required if Africa is to break out from the shackles of poverty and underdevelopment.
The payment of reparations and repatriation of tainted assets belonging to the continent could mark a significant step to catalyse economic revival of the continent.
Africa’s current plight cannot be isolated from the plunder of slavery and colonial exploitation, and therefore, there should be little or no argument about the justification for reparations.
The Accra Reparations Conference (ARC) is scheduled to be held at the Gold Coast Kempinski Hotel, Accra, from November 14-17, 2023, on the theme: “Building a United Front to advance the cause of justice and the payment of reparations to Africans.”
The conference follows closely on the heels of an address delivered by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on reparations and related issues last September.
Apart from campaigning for reparations at UNGA, the President also demanded the return of ‘billions of dollars’ of illegal financial flows from Africa, which has created severe financial distress for African economies.
The President called for cooperation between the African Union (AU) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the resolution of these serial problems.
The campaign for African reparations is not new.
However, it has gone largely unheeded by those who owe this obligation to Africa for the harm done to it on account of slavery and colonialism.
The ARC offers another opportunity to bring the just cause of African reparations to the front burner.
The ARC is expected to ensure that at the end of the conference, a viable programme of action for the attainment of reparatory justice is delivered and vigorously pursued until all the objectives are fully achieved.
The corollary issue of the repatriation of illegal financial flows siphoned into foreign banks by corrupt African politicians and unscrupulous business operators is no less important.
All tainted assets originating from the continent whose ownership cannot be justified must be forfeited and repatriated to aid the continent’s development.
In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice forfeited an initial amount of USD 311.7 million suspected to be part of the billions of dollars embezzled by the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
The forfeited amount was repatriated to Nigeria to support critical infrastructure projects.
Abacha’s case is a good beginning and ample proof that repatriation of tainted assets to Africa is possible.
The success of Jews in securing substantial reparations from those who perpetrated unspeakable crimes against them during the holocaust, and the successful recovery and repatriation of Jewish assets expropriated from them by the NAZI’s, is a compelling precedent for Africa’s repatriation campaign.
The powerful Jewish lobby ensured that Swiss banks, which kept the assets, were forced to abandon their much-vaunted bank secrecy rules and cooperated in the repatriation of the assets to rightful owners owners.
Jews and Africans share a common fate of being victims of the machinations and cruelty of other people.
Just as the Jews prevailed in their struggle for reparatory justice, so can Africa.
Even before hostilities are over between Russia and Ukraine, fervent efforts are being made by Western powers to exact reparations from Russia for its unjust war against Ukraine.
Undoubtedly, Ukraine is a victim of Russian aggression, much as Africa was a victim of the ravages of slavery and colonialism by some Western powers.
If fighting for reparations for Ukraine is the right thing to do, Africa deserves no less.
The Accra Conference participants have a duty to dispel the long-held shenanigans surrounding Africa’s right to reparatory justice and establish the legitimacy of Africa’s case as forcefully as possible.