Africa and Diaspora
African Claims For Reparations Cannot Be Ignored Indefinitely.
We Are Entitled.
A Statement on behalf of the Slave Trade Abolition Bicentennial Commemoration Collective (STABCC)
Our Planetary Civilisations are based on the natural laws of opposites. These laws impact daily on individuals and nations. We speak of “Justice and Injustice”; “Freedom and Restriction” “Right and Wrong”; “Life and Death”; “Love and Hate”; “Man and Woman” and so on. Where these laws are absent, we experience imbalance, within the individuals and nations. Primitive men and women knew the truths of these basic tenets. In fact, some modern individuals still hold to the belief: “an eye for an eye; and a tooth for a tooth”.
We do not need great levels of sophistication to interpret and understand these basic truths. Simplicity and honesty are enough to get to the root of these practices. If there are grey areas here, the greyness are not sufficient to cloud the essential expectations implied and expressed in these essential basic opposites.
Africans are claiming reparations from those who are being identified today for their ancestors’ corporate and individual involvement in enslaving many millions of the traditional population of the Continent of Africa, exploited and kept them in subjugation for many years, as recorded history clearly demonstrate. That act of slavery brought great wealth and power to the individuals, their institutions and respective nations.
An apology and reparations must be forthcoming and that must be very soon. There can be no retreat on this issue. Wrong deeds are done, leaving substantive historical legacy and consequences to the enslaved posterity.
The Movement for African Reparations is as important and momentous as the Anti-slavery Movement, including plantations revolts by the captives; the Anti-Colonial and Anti-Imperialist Movements; the Civil Rights Movement; the Anti-Racist Movement; the Anti-Apartheid Movement; the Feminist Movement; and The Pan-African Movement.
There is no material difference separating the common principles which bind all these movements. The just fight for reparations, in whatever form, cannot and will not cease until the Movement’s objectives are achieved. What we got here is a fundamental test of the quality of our modern civilization, in Arabia, Europe, the Americas and key sectors of our commercial life.
The primary argument against doing the right thing - apologise and pay reparations, is that “slavery was ‘legal’ and those who were involved did not break any law and so there is no need to make an apology or pay reparations.”
European civilisation, at the time of the Trans-Atlantic Chattel Slavery, was, and as of now is, based on laws which punished kidnappers, murderers and rapists, particularly acts perpetrated against civilians, who had not declare war against or threaten European or Arab security or their interests. As far as one is aware, there is no statute of limitation for kidnapping, murder and rape, and other general crimes against humanity.
Moreover, Arab, European and Jewish enslavers, financers and insurers of the same, had individual and collective theological beliefs and fundamental humanitarian principles based on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As far as we are aware, given the Books of Moses, said to have been written by the author by the same name, the Jewish Patriarch, in the Old Testament, Torah, Judaism strictly forbid slavery. Christianity, according to the Gospels based on Jesus Christ’s historical teachings, also forbid slavery, as applied to the African people. The Islamic Prophet Muhammad in his last ceremony made it quiet clear that ‘there was no difference between black and white, men and women, and slaves.’
The Islamic Prophet would not have allowed members of his budding “Ummah” to be kidnapped, murdered, raped, castrated and subjugated to inhumane treatments. A significant number of Muhammad early followers were Africans, like Bilal ibn Rabah (Arabic: بلال بن رباح) who was an Ethiopian born in Mecca in the late 6th century, sometime between 578 and 582.
Prophet Muhammad chose Bilal as his muezzin (a mosque official who calls Muslims to prayer from a minaret five times a day). Bilal was among the slaves freed by Abu Bakr, a high ranking Arab at the time.
Bilal was known for his “beautiful voice with which he called people to their prayers.” He played a pivotal role in the maintenance and development of early Islam, not as a slave but a freeman. Certainly, the Quran forbids the sort of inhumane treatment to which Africans were subjected under centuries of chattel slavery.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, whose followers are generally known as the “People of the Book”, came from the same theological root, the origins of which are found in African mysteries systems.
Many of the Africans who colluded with foreign slavers, at the time, and contributed to the enslavement of other Africans, are not readily identified today. If they were, it is unlikely that they left great wealth as a result of their complicity. Whatever they might have gained, subsequent European and Arab colonisations of their lands and wealth would have removed all such legacy. Those Africans who can be identified, whose ancestors were complicit in slavery, should give apology on behalf of their ancestors. Africa’s long established principles of slavery borne no resemblance to that of European system of enslavement of Africans. For a start, racism was never present.
Therefore, the apparent spurious argument that the ‘great and good’ are refusing to apologise for slavery and pay reparations because they “have done nothing wrong” continues to undermine their own professed civilised code of conduct, here at the dawn of the Twenty First Century. It would seem that barbarity can be physical as well as intellectual. Slavery as imposed on the African people was never legal in Europe. European serfdom operated on different principles.
Putting German citizens and others into secure confinements was ‘legal’, in the German Third Reich, under the direction of the National Socialist (Nazi) government during 1933-1945, in search of a “Final Solution” by carrying out industrial murder.
Familiar names at which human barbarity were performed are now written in indelible ink in history: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Flossenbürg , Mauthausen and Ravensbrück.
The two principal groups of prisoners in the camps, both numbering in the millions, were Jews and Soviet and Polish prisoners of war (POWs). Large numbers of Roma (or Gypsies), Communists, African People ( many of whom came from German colonies in Africa), homosexuals, as well as some Jehovah's Witnesses and others were also sent to the camps. In addition, a small number of Western Allied POWs were sent to concentration camps for various reasons. Western Allied POWs who were Jews, or whom the Nazis believed to be Jewish, were usually sent to ordinary POW camps; however, a small number were sent to concentration camps under anti-Semitic policies. These activities were ‘legal’ at the time.
The above atrocities were done within a well-established framework of bad practices. “The world knew about it at the time and Germany was not challenged.”
The same people who sanctioned or turn a ‘blind eye’ to the enslavement of African people were the same people, who perpetrated this terrible wrong on their own population. Islam was not involved in this human atrocity. Christians termed on those identified as “Jews and social misfits.”
Some would argue that it was not Christianity but senior members of the National Socialist (Nazi) government misinterpretation and abuse of metaphysical and eugenic principles, and who got caught in occult practices that went wrong. The record showed, however, German soldiers were blessed by Christian theologians as those of allied forces. Both forces claimed the support of God. And where it was appropriate and possible, the Jewish Rabbis gave their blessings to the followers of the Jewish faith, fighting with the allies.
The fundamental point here is, ethnic and social labels are not important. The core issue then and now is the ‘Human Issue’, which overrides ethnicity, colour, theologies, culture, gender, politics, nationality, social status and other considerations.
A page of modern history has now clearly shown that the call for reparations by those suffered crime against humanity in Europe, during the 1930s and 40s were given reparations and the flow of the same is real and current - rightly so.
Meanwhile, the African clarion call for reparations is being fudged at best and at worst being ignored, as was noted at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which took place in Duban, South Africa from August 31 to September 7, 2001.
Are the African people entitled to gain from Universal Natural Justice as others, like those who experienced Europe’s death camps? What can be more ‘killing’ than long, odious and destructive trips across several oceans and long hours of hard labour, working in tropical heat on Americas’ plantations, sometimes with ‘ the masters’ whips on their backs’, where Africans working life expectancy was less that the ‘life time’ of Europe’s concentration camps?
Is the delay in making the apology and pay reparations to Africans being caused by their melanin-rich skin colour, being different from those already gained reparations for their European concentration camps horrific ordeal? Or is it because Africans have not yet been elevated to ‘human status’, in the eyes of the slavers’ posterities - corporate and individuals, their financiers, insurers and governments?
There is one Universal Law which overrides all laws and that is the law of Natural Justice. That is the Law on which all civilised jurisprudence, theologies, philosophies and metaphysics are based. The People of the Book, based on their adopted tenets and alleged practices, over many years before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, cannot now present as their defence that they had “done nothing wrong” to humanity, simply because of their ancestors’ enslavement of Africans, ‘the Mother and Father of humankind’, as palaeontologists reminded us, and the current generations’ failure so far to apologise and make amends.
The African Reparations Movement expects, real, active and meaningful support from the International Jewish Community. Because of the Jewish Community’s past sufferings, at the hands of unreasonable and cruel people, the Jews should be well placed to feel the pain and associated consequences being felt by many Africans, like Post Traumatic Enslavement Syndrome, affecting many of our young people today. In addition, members of the historical Jewish community had been part of the African problem. Today presents an opportunity for contemporaries to be part of the solution, as it were.
There can be no real healing until the apology is made and the process of reparations commences. An apology is straight forward. What and who must be compensated, are subjects for negotiations, after the principle to make amends is agreed, and that must be soon. We, too, want to be able to say, “NEVER AGAIN”.
The Organising Committee
Slave Trade Abolition Bicentenary Commemoration Collective (STABCC)
25 March 2007