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Slave trade: Enough sorrow, time for reparations
By Paul Ejime

IF sorrow and condemnation could translate into cash, Africa would be trillions of dollars richer from slave trade, the cruel trade in human cargo, institutionalised by those who uprooted millions of Africans and sold them into forced labour around the world. There are no accurate figures but political historians estimate that "tens of millions" of Africans were shepherded into sugarcane, cotton, tobacco and rice plantations in the Americas and the Caribbean by European slavers.

The so-called transatlantic trade lasted for more than 300 years from the 16th century before an Abolition Act was passed in March 1807 in Britain, the then dominant power across the three continents - Europe, Africa and the Americas. Blacks were ensnared and captured like animals, many of whom were bound and had their mouths padlocked. The sick were thrown overboard moving ships and fed to sharks. A number that made it to plantations were overworked and most of them starved to death.

Even after the official abolition, the criminal enterprise continued largely because the wealth and cheap labour it provided became irresistible to Western powers, which in their "colonial wisdom" also decided to partition Africa at the Berlin (Germany) Conference in 1884. According to European scholars Robert Paul Thomas and Richard Nelson Bean in their joint essay: "The Fishers of Men: The Profits of the Slave Trade" (The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 34, No. 4 December, 1974): "...slaves destined for export from Africa were supplied in substantial measure from markets organised like a contemporary high seas fishing." There has been no shortage of regrets and in some cases, grudging apologies, even as the World this year marks the 200th anniversary

of the abolition of the shameful trade in which the State, the Church, the private sector and the Monarch all soiled their hands.

But Europeans were not alone in this trade. Islamic Arab slave traders enslaved Africans from about the 9th to the 19th century, primarily before traders from Europe arrived. The Arabian enslavement said to involve some 14 million blacks, was dominant in the North and East Africa with slave depots along the slave routes such as in Zanzibar. While "Oriental" or Arab slave trade was extensive and equally as cruel with many of the male slaves castrated and made eunuchs so they could not reproduce, the "British Slave Trade" was in comparison more organised, institutionalised and documented.

It was no coincidence that an elaborate commemorative service was held at Westminster Abbey in London for the abolition of the British slave trade recently. The service was attended by the British Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who described slavery as an offence to human dignity and freedom and "the greatest cause of grief to God's spirit." Williams, head of Anglican Church told the congregation: "We, who are the heirs of the slave-owning and slave-trading nations of the past, have to face the fact that our historic prosperity was built in large part on this atrocity." According to him: "Those who are the heirs of the communities ravaged by the slave trade know very well that much of their present suffering and struggling is the result of centuries of abuse."

With such strong words of condemnation, many would expect a world which rallied solidly behind Israel and extracted financial compensation for the Holocaust of a much later date (1939-45 World War II), to have come clean of its slave past instead of a criminal denial or lapse into deliberate amnesia when it comes to reparation for slave trade. But in contrast, all that many beneficiaries of slave trade and their descendants can offer is annoyingly superficial sorrow and regrets, a condemnable lip-service bordering on hypocrisy. It is indisputable that profits from slave trade financed the British Industrial Revolution and the first industrialisation of the United States and till today, modern Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Glasgow owe their opulence largely to wealth from slave trade.

Even the world famous Codrington Library of the Oxford University, the epicentre of British intellectualism, benefited from an endowment by Colonel Christopher Codrington, a colonial governor that owned slave plantations in Barbados. While big British companies such as Tate and Lyle, Lloyds of London and Imperial Tobacco are still dodging responsibility for their inglorious slave past, all that their American counterparts such as JP Morgan Chase can offer is an apology. The painful relics of slavery smear the world, from the Elmina Castle slave fort in Accra, Ghana (former Gold Coast), to Maison des Esclaves on Senegal's Goree Island, Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, founded in 1792 by African-American former slave Thomas Peters, and Haiti in the western hemisphere.

The Church of England had slaves in its plantations in Barbados, the so-called "Little England" where the European minority of four per cent of the estimated 280,000 population, still dominates and controls the national economy till today. If slave trade left such a major impact on the historical and economic development of Africa and on the growth of Britain and its empire as well as on the future of Europe and the Americas, why the schizophrenic attitude toward reparation?

And if the slavers were compensated by the State as an incentive to abandon what was generally agreed as a criminal and atrocious trade, why is the world that preaches justice and human rights so indifferent to the call for slavery reparation? Prime Minister Blair regrets the atrocities of slave trade, but falls short of apologising. The assumption is that an apology connotes guilt and responsibility and will therefore strengthen the argument for reparation. Doubtless, the inability of African leaders to articulate the case for reparation, stemming largely from the continent's "weak political and economic bargaining position" in a globalised world, has not helped matters.

Unfortunately, the boldest effort on slavery reparation literally died with the sudden death in 1998 of Nigerian millionaire politician and philanthropist Moshood Abiola, who had vowed to internationalise the campaign. His compatriot, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria is on record to have said "an apology closes the door (on slavery) and does not promote any reprisals or litigations, nor should it," while President John Kufuor of Ghana, the current African Union (AU) chair, thinks reparation would be "problematic." Consequently, various claims being pursued, including a US$777 trillion damages case lodged by the Ghana-based World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission, have been dismissed by African politicians as non-starters.

Granted, slave trade evokes strong emotions. But it is exactly for the same reason that its ugly legacy must not be swept under the carpet. The bi-centenary anniversary of the abolition this year in London actually re-opened the wound, which organisers of the event had thought they were trying to heal. The Black communities in Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean spoke through activist Toyin Agbetu who disrupted the anniversary Church service. He called the commemoration an "insult" on Black people, while House of Lords leader Baroness Amos, one of the guests at the service said: "Toyin's protest reflected the anger and the pain that still exists."

For his part, Michael Eboda, Editor of Black newspaper New Nation, felt there was too much emphasis on the role of Europeans such as William Wilberforce, the British parliamentary spokesman for the abolition movement, while the efforts of "great black freedom fighters" such as Nanny Maroon, Yaa Asantewa, Bukman Dutty, Sam Sharpe and Toussaint Louverture, against slavery, were ignored. Africa's woes cannot be blamed entirely on slave trade or colonialism. Its post-colonial leaders have contributed in no small measure to the continent's backwardness and must be held to account for their individual and collective failed leadership, characterised by monumental corruption, mismanagement of resources, cronyism and human rights violations.

Anti-reparation campaigners even cite the role of African chiefs who sold their fellow blacks into slavery. While this ignoble role is equally condemnable, the greatest responsibility lies with the "inventors" of slave trade. They wrote the dangerous script and directed the tragic enterprise. And in any case, what did the African accomplices gain from the trade compared to the Europeans? Erstwhile peaceful and stable African communities were destabilised by European slave traders and their African collaborators through the instigation of communal conflicts just to catch as many slaves.

The perceived logistical problems in the determination of which individual or country gets what reparation for slave trade should not stop the payment if the slavers could muster the political will to pay.

There cannot be a more compelling need for reparation than the tragedy of Africa today. An otherwise richly endowed continent, for a combination of reasons, now holds the dubious reputation for excellence in poverty, hunger, disease, humanitarian disasters and debts. These are all indicators of underdevelopment that have direct bearing on the continent's past defined by slavery and colonialism, and of course the failure of its post-independent leadership. To compound the tragedy, Africa continues to lose its best brains to western countries while its youths are dying in their thousands yearly on perilous journeys of self-perdition to Europe, in effect surrendering themselves to "voluntary slavery."

Europe is stoutly fighting the mass illegal emigration of Africans, including by erecting border fences. But the best solution is to make life better in Africa, perhaps, one of the reasons that informed the launch two years ago of the Commission for Africa by Britain, even as it refuses to apologise for slave trade let alone pay reparation. The idea of the Commission strengthens the case for reparation for slave trade, which if properly managed, along with total cancellation of Africa's external debts of more than US$300 billion will go a long way in addressing the needs.

The reparation being proposed can be a mutually agreed payment into a fund to be used for focused need-based pro-poor people-centred programmes to be managed by an international consortium of technocrats with Africa-bias to address the myriad development problems dogging

the continent. The scheme will be in the model of a Marshall Plan that was used to prop the economies of Western Europe after World War II depression.

Since defence and security are intrinsically tied to economic development, various peacekeeping initiatives which the African Union (AU) is currently grappling with can be robustly supported through the reparation scheme. Dealing with slave trade may be complex and emotive, but so too was Holocaust. In the name of natural justice, reparation is a minimum requirement at bringing a healing closure to a crime against humanity, an atrocious trade that dehumanised, demonised and decimated the black race.

    • Ejime lives in Dakar, Senegal


    Africa-America Foundation

    PO Box 230946, Astor Station,

    Boston, MA 02123


    Phone 508 733 2963, 508 620 2963

    Email:  website:


    His Excellency, John Agyekum Kufuor

    The President of Ghana


    Through His Excellency, Dr. Kwame Bawuah-Edusei

    The Ambassador of Ghana

    Embassy of Ghana

    3512 International Drive N.W.

    Washington, DC 20008



    March 28, 2007


    Dear Mr. President:


    Please permit me to congratulate you for the 50th Anniversary of Ghana’s independence from Great Britain which your people celebrated along with your well wishers. Allow me also to congratulate the people of Ghana and indeed Africa for the successful tenure of Kofi Annan as the immediate past Secretary General of the United Nations for two consecutive terms under intense scrutiny.


    Recently, Sir you were credited to have advocated that “Genuine remorse should be the way forward to atone for the pain and heinous crimes of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade”. While I believe that you are entitled to your opinion, this position taken by the President of a country that recently commenced the payment of reparations to its citizens maltreated by previous governments of Ghana is misguided to say the least. Although “some Africans played a facilitating role during the trade, it did not begin to absolve the perpetrators of the longest most organized episode of slavery that went on for hundreds of years. Governments, Corporations and individuals of Western powers at the time raided, looted and depopulated Africa by force. They in turn dehumanized and dispossessed the slaves, using them as capital to build enormous wealth for themselves.


    When slavery was abolished in the United States during the reconstruction era, in 1865 or thereabout, a bill was introduced by “Radical Republicans” (members of the republican political party) to re-settle the ex-slaves with one mule and 40 acres of land. The United States Senate prevented this bill from being passed into law and the ex-slaves were never resettled and compensated. Instead, a post slavery campaign to exterminate the slaves was in force.


    Africa and Africans in the Diaspora are at the lowest cadre of economic life; because they were dispossessed while others are enjoying in perpetuity, the fruits of their labor. The gap between those who robbed Africa and Africans is so huge that they will forever be forced, like Lazarus in the Christian Bible, to feed from the crumbs coming out the mouth of the rich man.


    Reparation could only comprise a small part of the debt of hundreds of years of slave labor and restitution for the other crimes against humanity. It should be made, no matter how small a percentage of the actual damages done. Reparation will bring about economic empowerment of Africa and Africans in the Diasporas instead of their being reduced to beggar status.


    “Respect and human dignity” will naturally occur once the perpetrators recognize that Africans are also human beings entitled to the fruits of their labor at all times. If one impoverishes another by taking his belongings, the only genuine remorse is to return the property of the victim with heart felt apology.


    “As we commemorate 200 years of the Slavery Abolition Act”, said the British Prime Minister, Tony Blaire, I believe that the way forward is to move from rhetoric to concretized amends like reparation payment. We would then begin to take the talk of dedicating “ourselves to show courage and energy to fight injustices” seriously because in the modern world, slavery takes different shape and form. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and others like “debt forgiveness” schemes are patchworks of pretentious correction and not a real solution. Slavery was a deliberate criminal act and illegitimate trade perpetrated at various times in history, by Western powers and some Arabian enclaves against Africa and Africans.


    Thank you very much for your time.



    Africa-America Foundation



    Oliver C. Udemba



    Cc: Other Presidents of Africa, America and Europe, Queen Elizabeth, Archbishop of Canterbury, US Secretary of State, Congressional Black Caucus, Governor Deval Patrick, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Giuliani, McCain, Edwards, Lady Kate Dawson, UN Secretary General

    Ghana pays reparation to victims of past human rights abuses
    The West African country of Ghana, (formerly known as Gold Coast), has commenced making restitution for past human rights abuses especially under the past military regimes of Jerry Rawlings, by making reparation payments ranging from $217 to $3,300, depending on the severity of abuse or violation, to about 2,000 Ghanaians. Ghana, now perceived as a leading democracy in Africa, was plagued by political turbulence from periods spanning five regimes since independence from Great Britain in 1957. Kwame Nkrumah was the first post colonial President of Ghana.
    The nine-member National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) which was formed about five years ago to address human rights violations committed under various governments since Ghana gained independence collected more than 4,000 statements from victims and witnesses. They held in excess of 2,000 public hearings, recordings of stories of executions, disappearances, tortures, arbitrary imprisonments, and confiscation of various properties.
    The commission recommended some $1.5 million in payments and individual compensations began in earnest this week.
    Äs I went to the commission to tell my problems, all that have happened to me. I am feeling better now because formally we went to the police station, we did not get anything, the time the case happened. We drive, go up and down we could not see anything, until this government came in and said we should come and confess. Now I'm okay, I do not want to continue with the pain again because the government has come in to intervene to settle the the case," said Richard EffaRichard Effah, one of the victims. In 1979, during the first of two military coups by former president Jerry Rawlings, he was beaten up by a group of armed soldiers. He still bears both physical and psychological scars. The scars on his ribs and arms are constant reminders, but he says telling his story to the commission has helped heal his psychological wounds.
    The Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Ghana, Joe Ghartey, said that although the process of healing is very important, ÿou can never pay somebody enough for human rights abuse, you can never do that and so it is reparation, it is some form of token payment, a token payment from the people of Ghana, to the people who suffered abuse, so it is not a lot of money".
    The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is a national of Ghana.
    Reparation case on appeal. Lone black judge removed.
    Corporate Slavery Reparations Case Appealed
    Black Judge Steps Down!

    By Amadi Ajamu

    A lone Black Judge, Ann Claire Williams, sat on a panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit selected to hear oral arguments in the historic corporate slavery reparations case. Judge Williams had participated in hearing all the cases on the Circuit docket that Wednesday morning of Sept 27, 2006, but when the reparations case began she was suddenly replaced. Her absence from the landmark lawsuit against fourteen blue chip U.S. corporations including J. P. Morgan Chase, Fleet Bank, and Aetna Insurance Corporations was not explained at that time. Subsequently, three right-wing, conservative, white male jurists heard litigation on the case of reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States.

    Judge William’s disappearance did not go unnoticed by plaintiff lawyers and the standing-room-only crowd over flowing into the corridors of the courthouse bearing witness to the extraordinary proceedings. An attorney for the plaintiffs, Roger Wareham, opened with a preliminary argument. “We're making a motion to recuse the panel. Because the sole African American Judge on the panel is no longer here. Given the nature of this issue and who our clients are, we're asking that the panel recuse itself. My co-counsel, Mr. Afran, has had a very detailed discussion with the clerk’s office and is unable to get any explanation, in lieu of that we're asking for the panel to recuse itself.” Judge Frank Easterbrook responded by stating “You can file a motion of recusal if you'd like, we will give you ten days to file. O. K.?” The hearing then proceeded without Judge Williams.

    The principal argument from the plaintiffs was the stonewalling of the conservative US District Court Judge Charles Norgle, who dismissed the case without allowing for pretrial procedures to be fulfilled. Norgle’s decision argued that the case had no standing, citing the statute of limitations and would not allow for equitable tolling. Equitable tolling is a principle of tort law stating that a statute of limitations shall not bar a claim in cases where the plaintiff, despite use of due diligence, could not or did not discover the injury until after the expiration of the limitations period.

    Plaintiffs’ attorneys Roger Wareham, Bruce Afran, and Barbara Ratliff argued that Judge Norgle hastily dismissed the case without a proper hearing of the facts and discovery disclosures. They laid out a detailed case history and the history of racism in the U.S. before and after the era of slavery and forced illiteracy including the Reconstruction period, peonage, rampant lynching, Jim Crow laws, Klu Klux Klan terrorism, and the civil rights struggle. They explained that this history obstructed African peoples’ ability to exact legal redress for repair and demands equitable tolling dating well after the civil rights movement.

    Corporation defense attorneys Alan Madans and Owen Pell maintained their position that the case failed to prove a direct connection between the defendants and the plaintiffs and that the case was brought too late.

    If the plaintiffs’ motion to recuse the panel is not granted, Court of Appeals judges Frank Easterbrook, Richard Posner, Daniel Manion will deliberate the arguments and issue their ruling at a later date.

    When I contacted Judge Williams’ chambers requesting to speak with her about her impromptu vanishing from the hearing and a staff member responded, “Judge Williams has no comment on the reparations case,” and quickly hung up. I then contacted Circuit Court Clerk Gino Agnello and asked him why Judge Williams did not remain to hear the oral arguments on the slavery reparations case. “Because Judge Williams recused herself,” Agnello answered.

    Judge Williams was appointed to the US District Court Northern District of Illinois by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. That appointment was followed by her appointment to the United States Court of Appeals 7th Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1999. In 2005, Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed her to a three-year term on the U.S. Supreme Court Fellows Commission. William’s published bio extols a long history of legal advocacy for minorities. She co-founded the Minority Legal Education Resources organization.

    William’s prominent legal stature dictates a full understanding of the law and the historic precedent of this slavery reparations lawsuit against U.S. corporations. Yet she chose to recuse herself from this significant case in Black legislative history, a case on par with Brown vs. the Board of Education. Why? She must answer this question - soon.


    Judge Ann C. Williams contact info is:

    Honorable Ann C. Williams
    U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
    Dirkens Building
    219 South Dearborn Street
    Room 2612
    Chicago IL 60604

    (312) 435-5532 Phone
    (312) 408-5141 Fax

    Plaintiffs' Attorney contact info

    Roger S. Wareham, Esq.

    (718) 230-5270 Phone
    (718) 230-5273 Fax

    Africa-America Foundation

    PO Box 230946, Astor Station, Boston, Ma 02123, USA

    Phone: 508 215-6941, Email:, website:

    July 8, 2016

    Re: Race Relations in the country

    Dear Mr. President:

    It is a fact and well know that Africans sold their kit and kin into slavery to the white man – something that went on for over 400 years, give and take. As a Nigerian-American, I get that. It also took the conscience of white people to stop the practice. It is undeniable that slavery left a bitter taste in the mouth, in the Americas and elsewhere because of the way it was practiced.

    We have listened to your commentaries on race relations in the United States, as President, visa-vis the present disharmony between law enforcement agents and young black youths. Our opinion in Africa-America Foundation is that your pronouncements are not addressing the real issues that can ease racial tensions in the country. We are of the view that the solution lies in the following:

    1.      Official Apology for the enslavement of Africans with the attendant atrocious inhuman acts and injustices perpetrated against them over the years.

    2.      Setting up of a Reparation Fund of at least 5 trillion dollars for them to use to try to rebuild their lives and have a semblance of normal life without the shame of slavery that puts them on the defensive and defiant.

    3.      Abolition of Affirmative Action or the so-called quota system which have been a reference point to call to question well deserved achievements of so-called people of color.

    4.      Setting up a Re-education mechanism for the re-orientation of young black youths. This can be implemented through the churches, schools, civic and/ or charitable organizations, etc. Slavery has ended and young, angry black youths have to learn to respect the police and other people in authority.

    It took white Presidents to act boldly to emancipate African American slaves and enact civil rights laws to protect them. As an African-American who happens to be President in this historic time, you can act boldly to actualize the above proposals or something similar. Time is running out and these problems will only get worse if something drastic is not done. America needs to be integrated in real terms not in rhetoric.

    Yours Respectfully,

    Africa-America Foundation

    Oliver Udemba


    Denmark apologises to Ghana for slavery - November, 2017

    Thomas Naadi

    BBC Africa, Accra
    Hulton Archive
    This sketch from the 1750s shows a ship used to transport enslaved Africans to the Americas

    The Danish government has apologized to Ghana for its role in the slave trade.

    Foreign Minister Anders Samuelson described it as a "sinful and unforgettable" part of human history that cannot be justified under any circumstance.

    A delegation from Demark led by Queen Magarethe II is in Ghana on an official visit.

    Ghana, which was known as the Gold Coast, was made a Danish crown colony in 1750, at a time when the global trade in African slaves was very active.

    The Danish government sold its territory to Britain in 1814 but thousands of Ghanaians were already sold into slavery in Europe and America.

    Denmark was among the first countries to abolish slavery in 1792.

    On the agenda during the Danish Queen’s visit to Ghana is the problem of human trafficking and the causes of mass migration, like poverty, unemployment and conflict