Sun | Feb 23, 2020

I demand an apology from Africans for slavery

Published:Wednesday | October 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir: On the one hand, I have listened to the arguments in favour of reparations and I understand the case being made. I share the reservations of those who oppose reparations going to our governments, which have shown themselves over the last 50 years to be fiscally imprudent, corrupt and often incompetent at executing plans of action.

But on the other hand, I think one of the most devastating considerations is the fact that we were sold into slavery by our own African people.

We cannot avoid the facts. As painful as it might be for many of us in the ex-slave population in the West to acknowledge, it is our own people who sold us into slavery. I know it was the Europeans who profited most from the slave trade and our labour, but our ancestors played a key role in selling us to the Europeans.

Even if slavery was practised in our continent, our ancestors knew we were being taken across the sea to faraway lands. The trade went on for decades. Surely, news got back to slave sellers that the people being sold were being mistreated and were enriching Europeans. But they still continued supplying us to the Europeans.

Honest dialogue

I think, first and foremost, we need an honest dialogue with our ancestors' descendants about the pain we went through after we were sold. I think that this dialogue will do us the most psychological good, because the fact that we were sold into slavery by our own still casts an insidious shadow across the ex-slave psyche.

Because we were sold into slavery by our own people, a part of us feels that we are to blame for our own suffering. Dialogue with our ancestor's descendants about the evil of having sold us into slavery would help to heal our people.

I think we need to know from our ancestors' descendants what they are taught, if anything, in school about the millions of us sold off into slavery in exchange for cash or the equivalent. Did our absence from the continent make Africa poorer? Did we matter to them?

An apology from our ancestor's descendants would mean more to me than an apology from Europe, which I do not expect. After all, they got rich off slavery, so I do not expect them to be sorry.