Slavery's disastrous impact on Africa

Yaounde- Cameroon (PANA) -- As postulated by History Professor Daniel Abwa of Cameroonian nationality, the major consequence of the Slave Trade for Africa was its being stripped of its manpower.
Depopulated and dispossessed of the most valiant of their men, many African regions saw their development curbed and disturbed because of the blight of slavery.
The second consequence of slavery, historians further contend, is that "an entire race has been demeaned and reduced to its most simple expression".
In this context Blacks, subjected to misery and placed in a state of servitude, lost their dignity.
Abwa considers that the greatest danger of slavery is that it led men to "act as if one part of humanity was naturally superior to the other".
Thus, some regions of Africa became the scene of a real slave hunt which, according to the historian Jean Meyer, drew its justification from racism to prosper.
Ancient manuscripts report that the region corresponding to present-day Nigeria, further east, was most affected by slavery.
In view of its high demographic density, this region attracted slave traders who preferred slaves from the area to Congolese, known to be very apathetic and aggressive.
Tribes that were in danger of being dislocated tried to defend themselves, and many villages built up their resistance by constructing ramparts with trees and shrubs that were sometimes poisonous.
Even though the colonial authority ordered their destruction at the end of the 19th century, some of these walls still exist in Cameroon.
To subdue Blacks totally, slave traders tried to make them feel inferior.
In the West the Black, referred to as the "Negro," became an object of contempt, considered in most cases as an object or, at best, an immature person.
The slave trade started as a huge traffic that evolved into a triangular exchange between Europe, Africa and America.
It comprised several variants, including the Portuguese trade that directly linked the Golf of Guinea and Angola to Brazil.
This route, which was the shortest and quickest, seemed to be the most expensive in terms of capital and men.
In general, the traffic was carried out in three phases - the first from Europe to Africa.
The slave ships sailed across the African coasts, from Goree - off Senegal - to Mozambique.
The slaves were transported by ship and sold in the French Caribbean, Brazil and in the south of the "thirteen colonies" that later formed present-day United States of America.
Some of them were sent to the Spanish empire: Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.
Slave traders referred to their slave "cargo" as "ebony wood," alluding to the Africans' black colour.
During the 17th and 18th Centuries, a hierarchy of nations practising slave trade developed.
First, the British and Dutch dominated this vile trade, while the French joined them in 1673.
During the 18th Century the volume of French trade became by far greater than that of the Dutch and France became the second slavery nation, after England.
The trade flourished as several small countries - Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Portugal - tried to cut their share of the slave cake.
To avoid conflicts, merchants of the various European countries trading in slaves divided Africa into regions or sectors.
France had monopoly over trade from Sierra Leone to Mauritania, while the Dutch had control over the trafficking of black slaves in present-day Cote d'Ivoire, with Gold Coast (Ghana) as its very first major slave trade centre.
There were 23 forts along this coast: 13 Dutch, 9 British and one Danish.
The French were excluded from this zone.
The Slave Coast, which corresponds to present-day Ghana, Togo and Benin, constituted the second major slave trade centre.
In present-day Nigeria, the opening between Osse and Cameroon, the most populated part of Black Africa, was the third major slave trade centre coveted by the French and British.
The fourth and last major centre, which became increasingly important towards the 18th century, was constituted by Zaire and Angola.
To fill their cargo, slave traders sometimes had to get supplies from two, and very rarely, three sectors.
In the 18th, century they had to go further south since the traditional sources had been exhausted.
Some of them went as far as Mozambique, on the east African coast.
Only the inhospitable regions or deserts (Sahara in the north, Kalahari in the south) and impenetrable virgin forests were spared by the slave trade.
The traders first visited the Senegalese and Gambian shores and later went to Sierra Leone.
They were soon compelled to abandon these regions as a result of their insufficient production, and moved to Cote d'Ivoire and Gold Coast, where the bushy savannah, surrounded by a thin strip of coastal forest, supplied slaves and gold powder in abundance.
Slaves arrived in the "markets" in long lines and in hordes like human livestock, their necks trapped in a sort of wooden fork, their limbs in chains.
War or raids were the main sources of supply, as one tribe made surprise attacks on another, often while the latter was asleep.
Those who escaped death became captives and were taken to the coast to be sold.
Besides, people sentenced for crimes, robbery, and debts as well as kidnapped persons also constituted a target for slave traders.
As historians point out, the figures of this traffic speak for themselves: out of 12 million Blacks who embarked on the "journey of no return," between one and a half to two million died en route.

21 august 2001 20:01:00

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