WCAR delegates deadlock over slavery issue

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- Delegates attending the World Conference Against Racism have failed to reach agreement over the issue of slavery and reparations.
There are concerns that the negotiations will collapse completely.
Closed-door discussions between Africa and the European Union over the contentious issue have been virtually derailed with African delegates digging in their heels and reverting to the hard-line position it adopted in Dakar in January.
This calls for countries that benefited from the slave trade to apologise to the international community, to provide reparations and remedial measures to victimised countries, to cancel African debts and to rapidly accelerate foreign investment and development aid.
A position paper circulated by Japan, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia, states: "We recognise that slavery, the slave trade and apartheid are grave historical injustices and fully acknowledge and profoundly regret the massive human suffering caused and the tragic plight of men, women and children".
On the issue of colonialism, the states said they do not take full responsibility for its consequences, but "we recognise and acknowledge that the damaging effects of colonialism have contributed to and aggravated the manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance".
South Africa's Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma late Tuesday held "urgent" talks with the Africa bloc and she appealed for moderation.
During discussions, the African bloc specifically excluded South Africa from the demand for reparations because it "suffered under apartheid and, therefore, the claim of reparations does not apply to the South African democratic government".
Kamel Rezag-Bara, Vice President of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, said that since this was the first world conference ever held in Africa, it was important for African nations to help influence the outcome.
"The legacy of slavery and colonization were the primary sources of racism and racial discrimination in Africa.
Slavery as a whole caused a significant lack of cohesion among the ethnic groups in Africa that has given rise to tensions between them today and has led to several conflicts.
"Those conflicts have resulted in many displaced persons and refugees.
African States must recognize that racism reaches beyond distinction based on colour - it also affects tribe, language or religion.
"In the new African Union there is a body that will settle disputes concerning questions of discrimination".
Rezag-Bara said the universal fight against racism and racial discrimination is primarily a human rights issue.
"It affects the way the nations of the world examine their past.
That past should be redressed with formal and public recognition of the wrongs of the past, and with appropriate reparations for the victims and the descendants of victims".
The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria called on the Conference to demand reparations, not necessarily in terms of monetary compensation to individuals, but in the cancellation of the crippling debt burdens imposed on African nations by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and related agencies.

05 september 2001 11:41:00

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