Africa & Beyond

Slavery!: Africa Must Apologize

All servants imported and brought into the Country. . . who were not Christians in their native Country. . . shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion. . . shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resists his master. . . correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction. . . the master shall be free of all punishment. . . as if such accident never happened.

Virginia General Assembly declaration, 1705

History, the story of the past, the road to discovering what happened before we, and sometimes our fathers, were born. Sometimes what you get from History depends on whose story it is. History can be manipulated to serve a particular purpose; sometimes it could be created to cover the truth. If we do not get involved in writing our history some will do us the favor even if we do not solicit their help. Black History, the story of the black man and his travails, usually start with his connection with others, especially the Europeans.

It has been said that before the first Europeans set foot on Africa slavery existed. Kingdoms were at war with kingdoms and the victorious ones took as slaves the inhabitants of the vanquished. Yes indeed, there were slaves but they were not chattels, they had their own community and they had kids and they marry their hosts.

From all indications, these African slaves in Africa worked for the masters for a particular period and are set free after fulfilling their obligation.

One could say then that when the Africans sold their brothers as slaves to the Europeans they had no means of knowing that slavery as they knew it was drastically different from what was obtainable in Europe and America.

If Africans who traded their kind could be excused at the beginning of slavery because they were not aware of the horrors the people they sold into slavery were going through, former slaves in Americas and Europe, who after gaining their freedom, engaged in slave trade cannot claim such ignorance.

In her essay Dr. Amanda Lee Brooks shed lights on the activities of Captain Paul Cuffe, a black New England sea captain, his dad, Mr. Cuffe Slocum, Mrs. Betsy Walker (A.K.A Fu-seng Be), a slave in one of the Southern colonies and Madam Tinubu, a Nigerian of the Yoruba extraction, whom I was taught in school was a nationalist but could not remember being taught that she was a slave trader. I might be wrong, maybe I was taught she was but my young mind was not developed enough to appreciate what slave trade entails. You can find Dr. Amanda Lee brooks write up here.

Joseph Cinque (A.K.A Sengbe Pieh) a member of the slaves aboard a ship called the Amistad who revolted to secure their freedom while being transported from one Cuban port to another, was also rumored to had engaged in slave trade after gaining freedom.

I was taught about slavery, at least slaves in Africa and probably Trans Atlantic slave trading. Perhaps due to the immaturity of my brain as a child, I did not see anything wrong with it or maybe I should say I did not appreciate the inhumanity inherent in such a practice. I saw root as a child and was always waiting for the next episode when it was shown as a TV series in Nigeria, to us as children, it was just an entertaining TV show.

My understanding of slavery did not occur until I started reading about it on my own and about the outraged of the black people in Diaspora against the practice. I listened to Peter Tosh’s “no matter where you come from, as long as you’re a black man, you’re an African”. To me the song was nothing but just that, a song, the message in the song is to the effect that black men are not indigenous to whatever country they find themselves today, they were forcibly and cruelly uprooted from their homes and taken to a land that was not only foreign but hellish.

Before he contested for presidency in Nigeria, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola talked about reparation for Africa by Europe and America for slavery I was however not aware of its movement in the US until I came to this country. Africa, if it were not such a poor continent, made so by its corrupt leaders should have been the first to pay reparation.

I gave some considerable thought to slavery and came to the conclusion that Africans must have aided and abetted the white man in selling their brothers into slavery. This conclusion was supported by various accounts of writers of the slavery phenomenon, some of which I subsequently read.

“European slave buyers made the greater profit from the despicable trade, but their African partners also prospered. Many grew strong and fat on profits made from selling their brethren. Tinubu square, commercial centre of today’s Lagos and home to Nigeria‘s Central Bank, is named after a major nineteenth century slave trader. Madam Tinubu was born in Egbaland and rose from rags to riches by trading in slaves , salt and tobacco in Badagry. She later became one of Nigeria‘s pioneering nationalists.” Tunde Obadina, director of Africa Business Information Services, wrote in his essay entitled “Slave trade: a root of contemporary African Crisis”.

Concerning the trade on this Coast, we notified your Highness that nowadays the natives no longer occupy themselves with the search for gold, but rather make war on each other in order to furnish slaves. . . The Gold Coast has changed into a complete Slave Coast. William De La Palma, Director, Dutch West India Co. September 5, 1705

From time immemorial, from all accounts, African elites have been the greatest enemies of Africa and Africans; they have been the irredeemable clogs in the wheel of its progress and that of its people.

Historian Walter Rodney estimates that by c.1770, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling captive African soldiers and even his own people to the European slave-traders. Most of this money was spent on British-made firearms (of very poor quality) and industrial-grade alcohol. There’s a Yoruba adage that says “biku ile opani tode ole pani” which translated literarily means “if the death in your house doesn’t kill you, outside death can not”. Applied to this situation, the conclusion would be if black people had not so shamelessly sell off their own, the Europeans might not have succeeded in enslaving them.

The so called elites were and still are insensitive to the plight of their people, unapologetic for stealing their money and generally unconcerned about the progress going on in the world in general. They are content with buying luxury cars that they feel no shame driving on death traps they call roads, they build mansions with so many rooms that they and their family cannot fully occupy in cities that have fallen into decay driving their hungry country men and women, who can barely scrape enough food together to keep themselves and their children alive, off the roads and into the gutters.

These power drunk individuals have no idea as to how to move their respective countries and their continent at large out of the doldrums of poverty and diseases. They walloped in ill-gotten wealth while their country men die of curable diseases like malaria and their children from chickenpox while others become cripple since they have no way of fighting or preventing polio.

They steal money they borrowed from developed nations, under the guise of providing basic necessities for their impoverished citizens, and guiltlessly ask for loan forgiveness, prying to see if they could borrow more in the name of their countries, steal some more and fatten their corruption enabled foreign accounts.

They are detached from the poor and blind to reality. They will rather spend billions of dollars on medical expenses abroad then fix the various mortuaries they refer to as hospitals in their own domains. Foreign medical check up is a class thing and how can they flaunt their wealth if they upgrade their hospitals?

Western countries are not free from blame in the abyss that Africa has fallen into. They are criminally liable for all the atrocities being committed by these vagabonds in power. If they are not guilty as perpetrators they are guilty by aiding and abetting these criminals. They supply them arms to kill their own while they buy cheaply the people’s God given natural resources.

The primary concern of the western world should be the people, if they are really and genuinely interested in their plights, and not the thieves, most of who stole power and lord it over their country men. Democracy that the west is trying to sell to Africa cannot flourish in the midst of poverty. As long as there is poverty the people will be manipulated to go to war against each other, believing that if they can eliminate their opponents there will be enough resources to go round amongst the conquerors.

That corruption is the bane of Africa’s problem is obvious even for the blind to see. According to one of the leaders in Africa, Former President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana:

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