Slave Trade Blamed For Africa's Current Under-Development

to full recognise- in their analysis, the impact o-f slave trade as one of the most profound causes of the continent's current under-development.
In an interview with PANA, UNESCO's director in the department of intercultural dialogue and pluralism for a culture of peace, Doudou Diene, pointed out that the continent had lost millions of human resources during nearly five centuries of American-and European-dominated slave trade.
He said 100 million African lives were lost during the heinous Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
"No continent in the world in the history of humanity suffered so many losses in the well-orchestrated slave trade system, which deprived Africa of its most vibrant sons and daughters," he told PANA in Paris.
These Africans were uprooted from their motherland and later forced to travel under harsh condition and work in chains and bondage.
In the process, they contributed immensely to the development of the most prosperous regions of the world today, instead of helping to develop the prosperity of their continent, Diene said.
Consequently, while other regions prospered, Africa was plunged in social and economic disarray.
Peasants could not till their land as the spectre of being captured and sold as slaves psychologically tortured and haunted the entire continent's peoples.
No economic activity was possible under the harsh slave trade period, which lasted four centuries.
The UNESCO official said that important part of Africa's history, whose consequences continue to this day, should never be forgotten, least of all by Africans themselves.
Diene is incharge of the international Slave Routes Project, which was launched by UNESCO in 1994, on the demand of African countries as well as the African Diaspora, and the Antilles.
In the interview, he challenged the continent's peoples, particularly the youth, to preserve that memory.
The Slave Routes Project is among the most comprehensive, scientific study ever made on the slave trade.
It demonstrates its profound causes, modalities, its commercial aspects, as well as the reasons why it ever happened.
A second objective of the study is to bring to light the consequences and inter-actions that the slave trade generated in the Americas and the Antilles.
The project traces the past in order to revive the memory of the trade that was erased from history, so as to bestow upon the trade a deserved universal recognition.
It seeks to ensure that the slave trade and its impact is taught in schools and incorporated in all historical books and studies in institutions of learning not only in Africa but all over the world, Diene said.
The study's aim is to clearly expose the material and psychological effects of slave trade on the continent's peoples.
"On the psychological aspect, I would like to emphasise that for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to have endured for the four or five centuries, the sustenance was due to deliberate ideological justification through an intellectualised racism dogma which promoted the anti-black feelings," Diene said.
He pointed out that since contemporary racism chronologically dates back to the era of slavery that the black people endured, the slave-route project seeks to draw attention to some of its consequences in the so called "modern era.
" Diene said the intellectualised ideology was purposely aimed at justifying the sale of human beings as merchandise.
A black code which was written and which defined slavery as trade in goods, supported such classification.
It was through such classification that theories emerged from western scholars such as Voltaire and others, whose perception was that the black man was "half animal and half human," he observed.
"Such mentality thus perpetuated the continued exploitation of the blacks, leading to what continues to be of concern to us today, racism and other negative trends affecting black people," Diene said.
During the slave trade period the blacks of the Americas and the Antilles had inter-active cultural actions of profound dimensions.
"We cannot limit ourselves today to discussions of the survival of African cultures which constituted considerable cultural force without reference to the constitution of the cultures and civilisations of the black Americas and the Antilles.
" "The cultures of the Americas and the Antilles were a tribute to African cultures because if slaves survived under the harsh conditions of extreme violence where all rights were denied under slavery, it was because, they drew strength from their rich African cultural values of myths, the Gods and rites which not even slavery could take away in those long journeys across the Atlantic, cultural values which provided the solace to endure.
" According to Diene, the slaves evolved through contacts with the Americo-Indians and the Europeans to developed a culture of resistance and extraordinary intelligence.
This helped subvert and reverse all the harsh conditions and total repression imposed on their race.
Slavery was the root cause of for many of the problem Africa faces today, he said.
"But I urge Africans to reject the notion of 'Afro-pessimism'," he added.
"Today, international recognition of slave trade as a crime against humanity would be the first most important moral, ethical reparation ever," Diene said.
Such recognition should be through the declaration of slavery and the slave trade as a crime against humanity by the United Nations and the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission.
France, which recently passed a law recognising slavery as a crime against humanity, must be commended, Diene said.
Diene encouraged parliaments in African countries to adopt similar laws and pressure the UN as well as the International Commission of Human Rights to adopt similar texts.
According to him, such action should be followed up by "historic reparations" which call for placing the history of the slave trade into historical books all over the world to ensure that it regained it's rightful place in history as the greatest tragedy of humanity just as the Nazi holocaust.
Diene said the other step would be to ensure that African countries taught the history of the slave trade as a subject in schools and other higher institutions of learning in order to preserve the memory.
He said that additional university research on slave trade should also be promoted in Africa and throughout the world to ensure that the most important factors of its consequences are brought to light today.
Diene said the moral reparation would serve as the basis to launch calls for material reparation.
"Many people now say that debt-cancellation should serve as the material reparation needed" but on that issue the debate is still open, he added.
Diene noted that "political reparation was also necessary due to the rampant racism which still exists today.
"All Africans and black communities, in the Diaspora, the Americas, western countries or the Antilles, are still confronted by the injustice of slavery, due to their colour and race, as unequal economic opportunities persist," he observed.
Despite the fact that slavery was abolished and left behind plural communities of peoples of different colours and shades, it's abolition did not remove traces of inequalities.
The future of such societies depends on the way they assume their historical pasts by recognising the slave trade tragedy.
Only then, he added, would such societies be able to democratically construct together societies which are devoid of inequalities, and which do not focus on race, colour or creed of the multi-cultural peoples that comprise it.

23 june 2000 09:29:00

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