REPARATION means the action of making
amends for a wrong or an evil act that has
been done to a person or to a nation.
This reparation can be done by providing
payment or other compensation assistance
to those who have been wronged.
Over centuries, African people have been
exploited, abused and tortured by Europeans,
but the talk of reparation of compensation
gets drowned and forgotten. Why is
there silence when the subject of reparation
for years of slavery and abuse is written or
And yet, cases against the killing of Jews
during the Holocaust are still being pursued
in court up to this day.
Hitler exterminated approximately six
million Jews in the Holocaust, marking one
of the grimmest and most cruel crimes in
After the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Tribunal
The murder of Jews was named genocide
and a crime against humanity.
Such a crime was clearly defined to mean:
“murder, extermination, enslavement,
deportation, and other inhumane acts
committed against any civilian population
before or during the war, or persecutions on
political, racial, or religious grounds in execution
of or in connection with any crime
within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal,
whether or not in violation of the domestic
law of the country where perpetrated.”
In accordance with the Nuremburg Tribunal,
since the Second World War, Germany
paid at least 108 billion Deutsche Marks in
reparations to the state of Israel for the death
of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
Similarly, the United States government
paid over US$1 billion to Japanese Americans
it illegally interned between 1941-1945
or US$20 000 per person for each Japanese
American illegally imprisoned in American
concentration camps during the Second
In Canada the Eskimos received from the
Canadian government US$1,5 billion and
massive pieces of land.
In Australia the Aborigines received large
areas of bauxite land from the Australian
government and a large sum of money.
In New Zealand, the Maoris received
US$160 million and large expanses of territory.
Through slavery, 13 million Africans
were illegally transported from the shores
of West Africa to the Western Hemisphere,
forced out of their homes and their continent.
Research done by Patrick Manning calculates
Africa’s population in 1850 to be
roughly half of what it could have been
given a five percent growth rate over the
previous 150 years.
Another research done by Joseph Miller
on the Angolan slave trade concluded that
half the number of slaves died in capture
or during transportation and the other half
was transported through The Middle Passage.
The African continent suffered the loss
of crucial labour power and it was subject
to enormous economic and demographic
In 1993, the Organisation of African Unity
(OAU) adopted the Abuja Declaration committing
the OAU to seek reparations for the
Atlantic Slave Trade and the mass murder
of Africans for over 400 years.
A group of Eminent Persons for Reparations
was charged with the role to push for
the political agenda for reparations for the
African slave trade.
They also carried the reparation campaign
into the international arena and the
United Nations (UN).
Although the reparations movement is
led by black people, there are other black
people who are opposed to the idea of reparations.
They argue that is dishonourable to reduce
the horrors of the slave trade to financial
compensation, but the act of reparation
shows restoration of dignity and acknowledgement
of an indecent and wrong act of
abuse and murder.
European countries and America are, at
government level, opposed to reparations.
In 2001 during the international conference
on racism in South Africa, African countries
demanded an ‘apology’ for the slave trade,
but European representatives said they will
only ‘regret’ it.
This means that America and the European
countries fear that an apology will be
seen as an admission of guilt and it would
bring legal consequences.
At the conference, slavery was agreed as
follows: “We acknowledge that slavery and
slave trading, including the Trans-Atlantic
Slave Trade, were appalling tragedies in the
history of humanity, not only because of
their inherent barbarism, but also in terms
of their magnitude, organised nature and,
especially their negation of the essence of
As early as 1890 Callie House, a prominent
African American civil rights activist
His work was later carried on by Malcolm
X and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.
Many others have raised the issues on
the wealth stolen from enslaved people and
opportunities denied during the many years
of segregation that followed. The claim for
reparation remains because the brutality
of slavery, and the grim years of Jim Crow
segregation that followed and the loss of
Africa’s wealth and opportunities.
The legacy of slavery continues to burden
African-Americans today as they live in poverty
and suffer unemployment.
But are reparations possible?
The answer is yes, this can be done because
we already have historical precedents
to prove that those harmed by other nations
have been paid reparations.
A legal suit for reparations to a race of
peoples has been recognised in international,
German, and American law.
This means states or governments must
be held liable for damages caused to a class
or race of peoples.
The Western powers involved in slave
trade must admit their guilt and take responsibility
for the actions of their ancestors.
Some people have argued that the present
generation has nothing to do with the past
wrongs, but if the present generation is enjoying
the fruits of slavery practiced by their
forefathers, why should reparation not be
Today, they are families still inheriting
money generated from the slave trade.
The least these beneficiaries can do is to
accept the wrongs done apologise and pay
The reparation movement should not
stop asking for compensation from all those
European countries that benefited from the
slave trade and colonialism.
The call for reparations is not just about
It is also involves an acknowledgement
of guilt in the slave trade and in colonial
It also about an apology for slavery and
exploitation and the return of artifacts stolen
At the end of the day, the reparation movement
is also about educating Africans about
their heritage and accurately portraying
African history and acknowledging the truth
of what happened in the past.