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The reparations issue is not dead

OurWeekly "Reparations" cover from 2005. (25968)
OurWeekly “Reparations” cover from 2005.

In the USA, with the election of Barack Obama, the Republican control of chairships in the current—and maybe future—Congress, the Black Farmers’ settlement, and numerous other small but significant adjustments in time, the reparations movement seems moribund, if not totally dead and buried.

However, in the international arena, the issue is very much alive and growing stronger. In Brazil, the country’s legislature recently passed a law to identify and compensate all African descendants who can prove they had slave ancestors brought to Brazil during the international slave trade. Clearly, the problem in implementing this new legislation will be financial. The overall costs are already estimated in the quadrillion range, so it remains to be seen whether the law will be eventually actuated.

In South Africa, the Khululani tort case filed in the U.S. against companies which profited from apartheid and provided material support to the apartheid regime that brutalized thousands of Black South Africans remains alive and waiting to be settled. Meanwhile, one of the companies named in the lawsuit, General Motors, has already agreed to settle and to pay some compensation for its involvement.

In Kenya, the Mau Mau case against the British colonial forces for torture, abuse, murder and pillage during the Mau Mau emergency in colonial Kenya, 1952-1963, just ended in a victory for the plaintiffs. A statement of regret and apology will be read in the British House of  Commons for that colonial conduct, each of the 5,228 remaining survivors from those atrocities will be compensated at least $5,000, and the British government will erect a Mau Mau monument to victims of those and other colonial-era abuses.

Another major step forward was recently provided by CARICOM (the Caribbean Economic Community), the 15-member body of Caribbean countries united for economic interaction and engagement. CARICOM members include the largest island—Jamaica—and the smallest—Barbuda—and includes English, French and Spanish-speaking constituents. CARICOM has huge credibility and influence in and out of the region. On the last day of its annual meeting on June 4-6, 2013, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the CARICOM ministers and heads of government voted to create a national Reparations Committee in each member state. The chair of each of those national committees would then sit on the CARICOM intergovernmental reparations commission, which would investigate and pursue claims against especially Great Britain, France and the Netherlands in the International Court of Justice, where claims can only be brought by nations.

Currently, the reparations commission members are already in Haiti, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, with Barbados as chair.

As stated by Baldwin Spencer, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, “… the constant search and struggle for development resources (in our territories) is linked directly to the historical inability of our nations to accumulate wealth from the efforts of Caribbean peoples during slavery and colonialism.” This is the principal reason for the decision to seek reparations redress from the former colonial masters whose nations grew wealthy at our expense and impoverishment.”

For the international reparations movement, this is a very important forward step for CARICOM, and for oppressed peoples everywhere.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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