Africans are not guilty; the whites are ...
They must pay reparation for their act
By Christian Agubretu
Accra, Sept. 23, GNA - Eminent professors of history
have rejected the argument or claim that the African
was equally guilty and blameable for engaging in the
Trans Atlantic Slave Trade as his white counterpart in
the capturing and offering of his fellow Blackman for
sale into slavery during the more than 200 years that
the heinous trade lasted. They said that the claim
that the Blackman did not resist the slave trade or
was neither opposed to it and was thus an accomplice
is a soothing moralist theory the white slave masters
were developing in collaboration with their African
spin "doctors" when the question of reparation was
There is the overwhelming historical evidence that the
African did not yield to the trade to warrant people
now to say that the African himself acquiesced to the
Professor Hilary Beckles of the University of West
Indies in Barbados in a paper presented to the
International Conference Trans Atlantic Salve Trade in
Accra, Ghana on August 30 to September 3, 2004 on the
topic the African Resistance to the Trade spelt out a
host of historical evidences that should clear the air
about the accusation being levelled against the
African. The Conference, which has scholars,
researchers, representatives from the West African
Sub-Region, Africans in the Diaspora and participants
from Europe and America was organised by the Ministry
of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City in
collaboration with UNESCO with sponsorship from the
Professor Beckles said: "Rebellion effectively
indicates how most Africans felt about their
entrapment and enslavement. European slaves denied
that Africans resisted the transatlantic trade by
emphasising the collaboration of some kings and
nobles; but the evidence of rebellion - from general
flight to armed resistance - is compelling and speaks
of the trade as existing within a context of mass
"The transatlantic slave trade was imposed upon
African societies by means of military terror. The
existence of the many forts and castles, European
monuments to war, self defence, and plunder, forming a
chain link across the West African Coast, is evidence
of the reign of violent military might."
"Resistance to enslavement at the hands of Europeans
took on a different dimension from traditional forms
of social protest in West Africa. It was an unfamiliar
system of social oppression. Eurocentric notions of
black inferiority, cultural disrespect, and
indiscriminate reduction to chattel property, were
resisted by Africans. The evidence suggests the need
to examine revolt and resistance at five stages: at
the point of capture and sale, in transit to the
coast, and in the barracoons, on board ships on
arrival in the Americas, the legacy.
"One of the earliest accounts of community resistance
relates to the killing of a Danish nobleman, Vallarte,
the first Northern European to sail to West Africa. He
was captured by a large group of Wolofs off the Coast
of Gore Island in 1448, and killed. His mission to
kidnap slaves, for sale in Portugal ended in disaster.
The Spanish also experienced in 1475 a large scale
African community rebellion. In this instance a
Castilian vessel, with a Dutch crew, was captured off
the coast of Guinea while attempting to kidnap people
for enslavement. The entire crew and captain of the
vessel were killed.
"Europeans were able, however, to secure alliances
with many kings and nobles. Leaders, who resisted
their involvement were targeted by European slavers
for military destabilisation. European military
intimidation, and the offering of attractive material
incentives, ended with many African leaders, against
the wishes of their people, participating in the
trade. In some cases the decisions taken to
participate related more to political survival than
profiting, though this division became increasingly
blurred over time.
"Philip Curtin's research has shown that many kings
and nobles restructured their systems of governance
because of a new dependence on transatlantic slaving.
Also, that slaving as clients of European merchants
became the economic basis of some new States. Client
governments raided neighbouring societies for the
procurement of slaves.
Such States, described by Curtin as predatorial,
increased their business efficiency over time. The
restructuring of political power to support the
economic dependence on slaving almost always involved
the creation of large armies that unleashed violence
across communities. "Scholars have also shown that
increased State militarisation and politically
supported violence against communities, were sponsored
directly and indirectly by European slavers. Such
client States sprung up within the vicinity of slave
forts. The Bambara State of Segu, formed about 1712,
has been described as 'an enormous machine to produce
slaves.'" Slave raiding and trading were crucial to
its structure and behaviour. The Europeans provided
horses and guns to its leaders who supplied the
slaves. In the early 17th century, one good horse
could fetch up to 15 healthy slaves. This exchange was
considered by Europeans as obtaining slaves on the
"African subjects, then, whether they lived within or
without such client States, were exposed to the
raiding forces of professional warriors. From Senegal
to Angola, these new States sprung up, or were
recreated from old States. One of their primary
functions was to subvert and displace States and their
leaders that were opposed to the slaving business.
"African communities, however, learnt how to defend
themselves within this new context, and developed a
culture of resistance against both the Europeans and
their client political collaborators. Communities
then, went beyond the pro-slaving interests of their
leaders and established an opposition vanguard.
Popular rebellion forced its way through the
compliance of political leaders and set in train a
culture of resistance that spread through communities.
By so doing, they established an anti-slaving movement
that was as significant politically as the client
arrangements between kings, nobles, and European
With the above and other numerous evidences the
African acted in supplying slaves to the trade under
conditions which he or she could not have control over
granted that the economic benefits the slave raiders
derived from the trade superseded any human or moral
And here we are with Professor Joseph E. Inikori, a
Lecturer in History at the University of Rochester,
USA speaking to the Ghana News Agency at the
conference ,saying the reparation the Africans and
those in the Diaspora were asking for from those
countries who benefited from the Trans-Atlantic Slave
Trade was purely an economic issue. The issue of
reparation should not be compromised on the pacific
moralist theory that the African was as guilty as the
white for indulging in the heinous human trade, he
Prof. Inikori, a Nigerian who participated in the just
ended four-day International Conference on the
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: Landmarks, Legacies and
Expectations in Accra said there was no doubt that the
slave labour contributed greatly to the
industrialisation of the Europe and the Americas.
The slaves were the producers of cotton, sugarcane,
tea and other commodities, which engendered the
foundation of economic developments of the west, while
it destroyed and destabilised the economies of African
states, especially those in the West Africa Region.
He said the white slave traders should show remorse,
and seek reconciliation with the African and pay
reparation for their crime. A fund could be
established where African countries could benefit from
and that it should just not be money doled out to
African countries but that it should be managed and
controlled in such a way that it could bail out the
underdevelopment of the continent.
Prof. Inikori said what was happening now in the US
where those in the Diaspora were individually taking
legal action against some companies, which were found
to be the direct beneficiaries of the slave labour
would not help much.
He said if that continued the insurance companies
would destroy documents that were vital to the course
of fighting for total reparation.
What Africa needed to do was to lay a firm scientific
base through research like the type of conference that
was held in Accra from August 30 to September 2 , 2004
to enable the continent to have one voice in the fight
The leadership of Africans through the African Union
and the UN could take on the fight.
Prof. Inikori presented a paper on, "Changing
Commodity Composition of Imports into West Africa,
1650-1850: A Window into the Impact of the
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on African Societies".
Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Director of African
Humanities Institute Programme, University of Ghana,
Legon, who also spoke to the GNA on the reparation
said the issue was worth pursuing and cautioned that
if that was achieved it should not divide Africa.
He said a similar thing was done to Germany with the
Marshall Plan after World War II and that of Africa
should not just be wished away that the Africans also
actively participated in the slave trade. He said the
effects of the slave trade dominated and colonialism
worsened the economic development of Africa to such an
extent that those from the developing countries could
not say they even had a fair market for their produce
He asked whether it was the producer or the buyer who
determined the price of commodities.
Prof Anyidoho said the leadership of Africans should
be able to see through the machinations and
manipulations by the continent by the developed
countries that always played the game to their
advantage. Western Countries must accept that their
ancestors dehumanised Africans and must be prepared to
pay reparations, Professor Hilary Beckles of the
University of West Indies in Barbados told the Ghana
News Agency in an interview in Accra.
He said the issue of Reparation would lead to the
largest black movement in the 21st century as more
Africans and those in Diaspora become aware of the
full and true story of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.
Most of the Western countries think that reparation
would mean that Africans would be forcefully demanding
financial support from them as a result of the Slave
Trade but that should not be the case.
"Reparation must be seen as the beginning of a
peaceful reconciliation process, it is not just about
cash, it is rather about the Western countries
accepting that their involvement in the Slave Trade
was a crime.
"The Whites must first admit that their engagement in
the trade was a crime against humanity, which they are
not ready to do. They are even yet to admit that there
should be a settlement, which involved the application
of the concepts of international law.
"They have to prove that the trade will not happen
again. Then the repairing of the damage has to be
done. From here we could have confession from the
perpetrators of the trade that their action was human
rights violation and it was for them to apologize,
then the move for reconciliation could be put
initiated and settlement procedures could be agreed
on", Professor Beckles, who is a Black Activist, said.
He said, "The Western World would want to resort to
settlement of the Colonial damage. They do not wish to
accept that it was a crime committed and do not wish
This is where the snag is. This is where they whites
beneficiaries of the trade wanted to divert attention.
This is where they are saying that the Blackman was
equally blameable as those who yielded to
participating in the transaction.
Professor Beckles said, "It is our duty as Africans to
make the Western world understand that it is not about
financial support that we are demanding for when we
demand reparation but that there should be the support
for us to produce films, documents and slave museums
and to make them available in every country that
slavery took place to enable the younger generations
to have more information about it and there should be
funding of such research activities".
Professor Beckles revealed that in the United States
many African families had already received reparation
from some insurance companies, as their ancestors were
insured as African property.
Professor Beckles presented a paper to the
International Conference on the Trans-Atlantic Slave
Trade in Accra under the theme: "Trans-Atlantic Slave
Trade: Landmarks, Legacies and Expectation."
The Blacks shared tears, the Whites grew purple red
and some of those from the Carribeans walked out of
the conference room as Emeritus Professor of History,
J.F. Ade Ajayi said in his paper; Trans-Atlantic Slave
Trade bred a kind of racism that the world had never
known and it remains till today the burden of all
black peoples whether in Africa or in the Diaspora."
The slave trade was no trade, but a form of exchange
that was so un-equal as to be tantamount to worse than
Emeritus Professor Ade Ajayi, quoted a famous Nigeria
writer who wrote: "That there is a spiritual dimension
to the problem and that 'my child is dead is
infinitely more bearable than my child is missing.'"
He explained: "When a child dies, we conduct rites;
bury the child and account to the ancestors. When
millions of our children were missing and we tried to
avoid the subject no rites are performed and the
ghosts continue to haunt us. We need special
purification rites if we are to be able to move
Emeritus Prof. Ade Ajayi, whose topic was:
"Remembering the Slave Trade", said: "Let those who
think that the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade is only one
of many history of slavery and slave trade in the
world be informed that it was unique and unlike any
"It was the only one where, because of the operation
of capital and competition, the slave was denuded of
all humanity. Horses or dogs would not be allowed to
be packed today as the slaves were packed" on the
journey from Africa to the Americas and Caribbean.
"Slaves were treated purely as cargo for insurance
purposes. Slaves were not allowed to educate
themselves. They were not allowed to own any property.
Ransom or manumission was rare. Even their children
belonged to their masters and not themselves. Families
and ethnic groups were deliberately split apart to
limit the possibility of conspiracy and
He said: "Its most important characteristic was that
this peculiar form of slavery was reserved for Black
peoples alone from the sixteenth to the nineteenth
century. With the result that slavery became
synonymous with Black peoples and Black peoples with
On the teaching of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in
schools, Emeritus Prof. Ade Ajayi said there should be
no compromise as to how the subject should be handled
without telling the truth.
He said the holocaust of the Jews; horror of the world
wars were historical facts, which had been told
without endangering anyone and called on the
Conference not to have any compromise as to how the
story was told and to whom.
Participants at the Conference were divided on the
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as to how the subject could
be taught in the curriculum of both the White and the
Black children without offending the sensibilities of
any of them.
The conference was worried as to how the emotionalism
of both the Black and the White on the role each
played in the trade could be told truthfully either by
a Black or White teacher to both Black and White
students in the same class.
Some contributors said Black Americans accused
Africans for selling their ancestors into slavery and
charged the Whites for dehumanising them after
witnessing the legacies and relics of the enterprise.http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=66576