During the conference that took place in Ghana this week, a worldwide campaign to seek reparations for slavery was forged. The African Union partnered with Caribbean countries to form a “united front” to urge European nations to pay for “historical mass crimes.” The goal of this effort is to get European nations to pay for reparations.
The cooperation between the African Union, which has 55 members, and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), which has 20 countries, will work toward the goal of increasing the amount of pressure placed on countries that were formerly engaged in the slave trade to participate in the drive for reparations.
The delegates also announced the creation of a worldwide fund with its headquarters in Africa with the intention of speeding up the campaign.
A draft proclamation that was circulated at the end of the four-day conference did not specify what form the reparations should take, but it did announce that the African Union would explore “litigation options” and work with the United Nations to assess “whether acts of enslavement against Africans constituted serious violations of human rights at the time they were committed.” This was stated in the proclamation. It is anticipated that a finalized version of the document, known as the Accra proclamation, will be made public this coming weekend.
The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, delivered the opening remarks at the conference. He stated that “the entire period of slavery meant that our progress, economically, culturally, and psychologically, was stifled.” There are innumerable accounts of families that were violently torn apart by… The impacts of such catastrophes are impossible to quantify, but it is important that they be acknowledged.
He continued by saying that “no amount of money can restore damage caused by transatlantic slave trade and its consequences.” He stated that “the entire continent of Africa deserves an official apology from the European nations involved in the slave trade.” But there is no doubt that this is an issue that the entire world needs to address and can no longer ignore.
In July, members from the African Union traveled to Barbados to kick off discussions on how to best collaborate with countries in the Caribbean.
At the meeting, the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Carla Barnett, stated that “We are at an important inflection point in the global movement for reparatory justice.” She emphasized how important it was to “speak with one voice” in order to go forward with the request for restitution.
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that a representative attended the conference “as part of standard diplomatic engagement,” but the government continues to maintain its opposition to the idea of making reparations.
Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was asked earlier this year by Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy whether he would offer “full & meaningful apology for our country’s role in slavery as well as colonialism” and commit to reparatory justice. He responded “no” and added that while it was important to have an inclusive and tolerant society, “trying to unpick our history is not right way forward as well as is not something we will focus our energies on.”
This viewpoint is held by the newly appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Cameron, who visited Jamaica while he was in office as Prime Minister in 2015 and admitted that slavery was “repugnant in all of its forms,” but expressed the hope that “we can move on from this painful legacy.”
There have been advancements achieved in other areas. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current president of Germany, recently expressed “shame” for the colonial horrors his country inflicted on Tanzania. In 2021, Germany will officially recognize perpetrating genocide while it was occupying Namibia and will announce financial aid in the amount of more than £940 million. In December of 2017, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued an official apology on behalf of the Dutch state for the historical role the Netherlands played in the slave trade. Rutte acknowledged that the slave trade was a crime against humanity at the time.
During his visit to Nairobi at the beginning of this month, King Charles addressed what he called the “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans” during the country’s war for independence. On the other hand, he did not go so far as to issue a formal apology.
They cited Glasgow University’s promise to pay £20 million to atone for its historical links to the transatlantic slave trade, the Church of England’s pledge of £100 million to “address past wrongs” after its investment portfolio was found to have historic links to the transportation of enslaved people, and also the new Heirs of Slavery movement, formed by descendants of some of Britain’s wealthiest enslaver families. Delegates said that the evidence of growing willingness to accept.
It was crucial to watch the African Union joining forces with Caricom, according to Ribeiro-Addy, who attended the Ghana summit and chairs an all-party parliamentary group on reparations. It’s a giant leap in the right direction. She explained, “They have made it abundantly clear that this is something that can no longer be ignored. They have sent a very clear message that conveys this idea.”
David Comissiong, the ambassador of Barbados to Caricom and the deputy chair of the country’s national taskforce on reparations, stated that: “I think everybody felt that they were experiencing something very historic; people feel encouraged by the amount of work that has been done to create a global reparations movement.”
On Friday, delegates traveled to Elmina Castle, a key European slave trade center in Ghana. The castle served as a holding facility for enslaved individuals before they were transported to ships bound for the Caribbean, Brazil, and North America. At least 12 million people were kidnapped and sold into slavery on plantations by European nations between the 16th and 19th centuries. This occurred between the time period of the European colonization of Africa.
In its 10-point plan for reparatory justice, Caricom seeks for a comprehensive formal apology, the cancellation of debt, and investments from former colonial powers in the health and education systems of the countries that were colonized. According to the most current Brattle analysis, which was commissioned by the University of the West Indies, it was calculated that the United Kingdom owes Caribbean islands £18.8 trillion in reparations for hundreds of years of abuse.