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Reparations for Africa long overdue - Akufo-Addo

BY: Chris Nunoo
President Akufo-Addo speaking to some of the Diasporians after the opening session of the Summit. Picture: SAMUEL TEI ADANO
President Akufo-Addo speaking to some of the Diasporians after the opening session of the Summit. Picture: SAMUEL TEI ADANO

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stated that reparations for Africa and the African Diaspora are long overdue.

He has, therefore, called for more dialogue on the issue.

“Reparations for Africa and the African Diaspora are long overdue. Predictably, the question of reparation becomes a debate only when it comes to Africa and Africans. We believe the calls for reparations for Africa are just,” President Akufo-Addo said at the opening of a four-day summit on the theme: “Advancing justice: Reparations and racial healing” in Accra yesterday.

The President, however, said such a discourse would not be successful without discussions on racial healing.

Event

The summit is being co-hosted by the AU Commission, the Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund (ATJLF), the Africa-American Institute (AAI) and Global Black, with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

It is part of a time-bound multi-year programme that will support the development of a unified and comprehensive strategy and advocacy agenda on reparatory justice and also present an opportunity to holistically discuss and reflect on strategies for reparations and racial healing as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery and colonialism.

Formal apology

According to him, the entire continent of Africa deserved a formal apology from the European nations involved in the slave trade for the crimes and damage the trade had done to the population, psyche, image and character of the African the world over.

He further said no amount of money could restore the damage done by the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its consequences which spanned many centuries, adding: “We need to heal from the wrongs of the past in order to capitalise on the opportunities that await us in the future.”

President Akufo-Addo said the Caribbean community had taken the lead in the reparations debate and, therefore, urged the AU to engage with “our kith and kin from the Diaspora and form a united front to advance the cause for reparations”.

Reparations

Citing some instances when reparations were paid to buttress his call, President Akufo-Addo recalled that when the British ended slavery, all the owners of enslaved Africans received reparation of 20 million pounds sterling, the equivalent of 20 billion pounds sterling today, but said enslaved Africans themselves did not receive a penny.

Also in the US, he said, owners of slaves received $300 for every slave they owned, but the slaves themselves received nothing.

“Take the case of Haiti, which had to pay reparations amounting to $21 billion to French slave holders in 1825 for the victory of the great Haitian Revolution, the first in the Americas and the Caribbean where slaves were freed.

“It was a payment made under duress which impoverished Haiti throughout the 19th century till today,” he said.

He added that there were legions of stories of families who were torn apart, such as fathers who went out to fish or farm and never returned.

Also, there were boys who went out to play and never came back because they were taken away, including girls who went out to fetch water and never saw their parents again.

President Akufo-Addo said much as the effects of such tragedies could not be quantified, they needed to be recognised because Africa lost out tremendously in that period, and that its ripple effects were still being felt now.

Unity

He further urged Africans to work together to change the narrative, which he said had been characterised largely by the concentration of diseases, hunger, poverty and illegal mass migration.

“Let us all remember that the destiny of all Black people, no matter where they are in the world, is bound up with Africa. We must do all we can to derive maximum dividends from our relations with the Diaspora in a mutually beneficial cooperation and as partners for shared growth and development,” he said.

The President also called on all Black people to imbibe a deep consciousness and understanding of the goals and history of the African people.

Single voice

A representative of the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Ambassador Salah S. Hammad, said the time had come for Africans to speak with a single voice on the issue of reparation, adding: “We have to set the foundation for that voice to be heard.”

He said one of the objectives of the AU was to agree on the establishment of a platform that would officially represent Africa and seek reparation for the “crime” that happened in the past.

For his part, the Director of the MacArthur Foundation, Dr Kole Shettima, explained that the forum sought to provide opportunity for people of African descent to engage in productive discussions on the structure and systemic legacies of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslavement, colonialism, imperialism and anti-Black racism.

He said Ghana was chosen for the summit because of its uniqueness as the birthplace of pan-Africanism and also Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of the country.