Calling for slavery and exploitation compensation

אישה אפריקאית סחר עבדים

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

spoken about?

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

human history.

After the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Tribunal

was created.

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

World War.

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

demanded reparations.

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

seeking money.

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

from Africa.

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.


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