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The politics of reparations called for by Africa


Practical Politics 

By David L. Horne, PhD | oped contributor

As the topic of reparations for African people continues to expand and reproduce itself, this week, November 14-17, in Accra, Ghana (West Africa), hundreds of reparations activists, scholars and politicians, some of the latter very new to the issue, are meeting in a major international conference to explore the topic further. This conference is sponsored by the very influential African Union, the most important organization of African countries in today’s world. Several African heads of state, like Ghana’s president Akufo-Addo, have recently spoken on the topic at the United Nations and is also speaking at this gathering.

President Akufo-Addo opened the conference, entitled “Building a United Front to Advance the Cause of Justice and the Payment of Reparations to Africans,” by saying that,  "No amount of money can restore the damage caused by the transatlantic slave trade ... But surely, this is a matter that the world must confront and can no longer ignore. There are legions of stories of families who were torn apart.  You cannot quantify the effects of such tragedies, but those tragedies need to be at least recognized.

"The entire period of slavery meant that our progress, economically, culturally, and psychologically, was stifled. There are legions of stories of families who were torn apart," Akufo-Addo said. "You cannot quantify the effects of such tragedies, but they need to be recognised. "From the 15th to the 19th century, at least 12.5 million Africans were kidnapped and forcibly transported by European ships and merchants and sold into slavery. Those who survived the brutal voyage ended up toiling on plantations under inhumane conditions in the Americas, mostly in Brazil and the Caribbean, while European settlers and others profited from their labor.

President Akufo-Addo added that, “In September (2023), a United Nations report said countries could and should consider making financial payments to African descendant communities, among other forms of compensation, but cautioned that legal claims, such as the ones being made by the CARICOM nations in court against England, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany, were complicated by the time that has passed and the difficulty in identifying perpetrators and victims.  African nations, for example, particularly those in West Africa, were both victims and perpetrators in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and it all needed to be sorted out. Akudo-Addo mentioned the Ashanti and the Fante in his own nation of Ghana, as major players in the slave capture and trading process.  Akufo-Addo said that he welcomed what he called an unequivocal call from Caribbean nations for reparations. "We in Africa must work together with them to advance the cause,

The event is expected to produce an African-led action plan to push for reparatory justice for the African Diaspora, establish an African committee of experts to oversee the plan's implementation, and boost collaboration with the world-wide African Diaspora, including  CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market –15 countries), the National Reparations Congress and N’COBRA in the U.S., and other such groups throughout Central America, South America and Latin America and Australia.

The African Union is particularly adept at doing such major planning, as demonstrated by the African Economic Plan adopted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1993, and readopted by the African Union in 2003, out of which came the planning and implementation of the 8 African Economic Development Zones (Regional Economic Communities), the 2063 African Union’s Master Plan for Development (What We Want), and the currently developing massive All African (Continental) Economic Free Trade and Development Plan to systematize intercontinental trade between African countries.

Though it is very exciting to hear of the continent’s interest in the reparations struggle, Africa is unlikely to be as triumphant in this field as in others. Reparations to intercontinental trade is comparable to brain surgery and shingles, and it is very likely to remain a nut that cannot be properly cracked.

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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