Revisiting Walter Rodney's WEST AFRICA AND THE ATLANTIC SLAVE-TRADE
It was Kwame Ture who coined the slogan "No Reparations without Repatriation." Kwame related that while on a visit to North Vietnam during their war of National Liberation, Ho Chi Minh asked him when the Africans in the Diaspora would be going back to their homes in Africa since Africa is their home. Diasporan Africans have been repatriating to their homes in Africa over the centuries and increasingly, more and more Diasporans want to Repatriate.
In a survey carried out in London in September 2000, over two-thirds of the respondents said they would to repatriate to Africa if the economic and social conditions were better. So it is the enormous poverty on the continent that forces Africans from the continent to travel to Europe and America in search of economic advancement that is also hindering the mass Repatriation of Diasporans to their home in Africa. But there is one big problem.
While the demand for Reparations from all those involved in the Atlantic slave-trade and in enslaving Africans, including the Jews and the Catholic Church is just, the current demand for Reparations is one sided. Europe and America will not take us seriously until the African ruling classes repair the damage done to African societies by their Ancestors who were involved in selling their fellow Africans into slavery.
Currently, the Reparations demand is concerned mainly with those who were taken away. It seems that no one, apart from the late Guyanese African historian Walter Rodney, has considered the sufferings of ordinary Africans who remained.
The negative changes to African society and culture made by unscrupulous African rulers during the period of the Atlantic slave-trade have borne negative consequences up to the present time and the untold sufferings of the African masses must be redressed. The current African ruling classes must make Reparations to the African masses by repairing the damage caused by their participation in the slave-trade.
Rodney shows that "The Atlantic slave-trade was possible because people were concerned only with profit. This includes the African ruling classes. They knew that they were taking part in evil practices, but they wanted European manufactured goods which were riches in a society that did not use money."
The current advocates of privatization of state assets also know that the only motive for privatization is profit, not meeting the needs of the people which must be primary at all times. Once again, African rulers are entering into partnerships with foreigners against the masses of their own people. This is a continuation of the slaving mentality and the negative changes in African society and culture brought about as a consequence of their involvement in the Atlantic slave-trade.
Rodney wrote, "One of the most important things is to recognise the very painful and unpleasant fact that there were Africans who aided and partnered Europeans in enslaving other Africans."
During that period, tremendous damage was done to African societies by rulers who betrayed their fellow citizens as the late Rodney observed in his WEST AFRICA AND THE ATLANTIC SLAVE-TRADE, published by the Historical Association of Tanzania in 1967. This should be a must read for every one who seeks to understand why current African rulers adopt and implement policies sold to them by Europe and America that bring poverty and suffering to the masses of African people.
Rodney noted that prior to slavery, "Kings, Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs, Headmen, Nobles, Priests and Clan Leaders ruled on behalf of the people as a whole." "They administered justice, and enforced rules for the efficient economic and social functioning of the Community. Spiritually, they maintained the goodwill of tribal Ancestors, sought divine guidance for the people and protected them from evils such as witchcraft" which is magic done for evil purposes.
However, with the coming of the Atlantic slave-trade, it was noticeable that the rulers acted more like a separate class. In most of the states of the West African Coast, the rulers were unscrupulous in selling their own subjects to Europeans. According to Rodney, this class division was more fundamental than tribal divisions. An examination of the methods of getting slaves in West Africa reveals this to be the case.
While the overwhelming majority of peoples and nations of the earth accept that slavery was a crime against humanity, many people, not only Africans, were astonished when Senegalese president Abdoulai Wade and Nigerian President Olesogun Obasanjo came out in opposition to this principle and against Reparations at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism held in South Africa last year.
However, while Obasanjo came out against the previously stated Nigerian position, Nigerian civil servants at the conference found a way of working around Obasanjo's position with the Black Caucus to get the conference to agree that slavery was indeed a crime against humanity.
Most people now also agree that the vast wealth of Europe and America is founded on the enslavement of Africans, on genocidal slave labour. Eric Williams, a former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, wrote a book entitled CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY in which he shows how the surplus capital on which capitalism is founded, were the profits made from slavery and the slave-trade. Since there is no statute of limitation, Europe and America, the Jews and the Catholic Church owe Africa and the Africans billions in Reparations.
It should not be surprising that neither Europe or America is taking the demand for Reparations seriously. A promise made to North American Africans during the American civil war to give forty acres of land and a mule to each family was not honoured. However, a powerful united Africa in which African rulers rule on behalf of Africans rather than as partners of Europeans and Americans will quickly force Europe, America and Arabia to meet just Reparations demands.
Instead, they continue to rule with the same type of mentality, with different ruling classes forming alliances with different European partners to maintain themselves in positions of power and privilege. NEPAD, the so-called new Partnership for African Development championed by Mbeki, Obsanjo and Wade moves this to a continental level. Europe and America are joyful since it would mean making the African Union a neo-colonial appendage of Europe and America in perpetuity.
One can not understand the problems in West Africa today if one does not understand the changes brought about by slavery. Rodney writes that "African rulers found themselves selling slaves to get guns to catch more slaves to buy more guns." Its modern equivalent is the debt crisis. Africa finds itself in a spiral of mounting debt. The ruling classes borrow and borrow and go deeper and deeper into debt. Interest and capital repayments mean that they are bereft of sufficient capital to transform the economy and the lives of the people through social policy.
So we have a country like Mozambique, described as a success by the IMF and the World Bank, spending 250 per cent more on debt and interest repayments than it spends on health and education combined. All that the rulers of Mozambique have succeeded in doing is to create more and more poverty.
Armondo Gabouza, destined to be the next President of Mozambique is described as being extremely rich. When we knew him as a "Freedom Fighter" fighting for the liberation of Mozambique against Portuguese colonialism, he was not known to have a lot of money. As happened during the days of slavery, the ruling elite in the FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF MOZAMBIQUE (FRELIMO) has formed a defacto alliance with imperialism against their own people.
So as the rulers grow rich, the ordinary people are deprived of health, education and social services by the implementation of IMF/WB programmes. The rulers of Mozambique need to make Reparations to the ordinary people of Mozambique. They need to repair the damage that has been caused by the implementation of IMF/WB programmes.
Implementing IMF/WB policies has brought increased suffering to the African masses. This has meant that the number of Africans living on less than $1.00 (US) per day has risen from 242 millions to over 300 millions in the last 10 years. As one European writer has noted, "The more vigorously African governments apply policies demanded by whites, the poorer people become." Specifically in the case of Zambia, another wrote: "Across Zambia, a decade of free market reforms have seen the roll back of social services and deepening poverty."
Some people make excuses for the former slavers claiming that they were forced into selling their own people into slavery. But during the whole period of the West Atlantic slave-trade, African rulers were in full political control of their territories. Europeans who built slave forts along the Atlantic coast did so with the agreement of rulers and paid rent for the land on which these slave forts were built.
Prominent among the African slavers were the Fulanis whose state of Futa Djalon became rich and powerful. The Fon slave-trading state which grew up in Dahomey (Benin) neglected agriculture and was reduced to famine. Does this have echoes in Africa today where famine rages over vast sections of the continent. How come these rulers do not plan for the future. After all, drought in Africa is cyclical. These rulers have the lesson of the African story told in the Bible of Joseph interpreting the Pharaohs dream to teach them that in good times, they must plan for hard times.
Among the Akan slave-raiders, the Asante Kingdom grew up as a powerful slave trading state. Their main business concentrated on supplying slaves to Europeans and this Asante Kingdom grew rich and powerful because of the European guns they received in exchange. Does this have any modern parallel in Africa today where guns imported from Europe and America are used to kill millions of Africans while the Euro-Americans grow richer and richer on the sufferings of Africans. Yoweri Museveni's failed attempt to build a Tutsi Hema Empire in alliance with America and Britain resulted in the death of almost five million Africans.
Recently, the modern Asante rulers held an audacious celebration of their three hundred years alliance with the Dutch. For most of that time, the purpose of the alliance was to capture Africans to be sold into slavery. The thinking and mentality of the Asante rulers have not changed. Who would have imagined or could have imagined modern day Africans celebrating their Ancestors selling their fellow Africans into slavery. Any African with a sense of pride in being African would hang his head in shame. But among the modern Asante rulers, there is no shame, steeped as they are in betrayal.
It is not surprising therefore to learn that these self same Asante rulers formed the main opposition to Kwame Nkrumah in his drive to liberate and unite Africa and to use Africa's vast resources for the benefit of Africans. Their opposition to Nkrumah was violent. They were involved in terrorist activities, exploding bombs and killing members of Nkrumah's Convention Peoples party. CPP members of the legislative assembly were forced into exile in Accra as the Asante rulers declared the Royal Kingdom of Asante a No-Go Area for Kwame Nkrumah in particular and the CPP in general.
When will the Asante ruling class, the dominant force in Ghanaian politics today, begin to give Reparations to the people of Ghana? When will they begin to repair the damage caused to Ghanaian society by their involvement in the slave-trade, their wrecking of the noble ideals for which Kwame Nkrumah stood, and the barefaced manner in which they celebrate the evil deeds of their ancestors? In particular, why are the Asantes so violently opposed to Diasporan Africans Repatriating to Ghana.
Diasporan Africans are denied citizenship of Ghana no matter how long they are there. The right of abode is given after seven years. But non-Africans can gain full Ghanaian citizenship after only three years. Repatriated Africans report the spreading of negative propaganda against Diasporans from Jamaica and the USA in sections of the Ghanaian media.
On the other hand, they cover up the ill treatment of Ghanaians by non-Africans. For example, the Malaysian boss who spat in the face of his Ghanaian driver and described Ghanaians as animals; the boss from India who as a matter of routine, punched and kicked his Ghanaian staff; the Dutch construction supervisor who defecated in the drinking water of Ghanaian workers; the German tourists who make pornographic films with animals, using children; and the Swiss teachers at an orphanage running a paedophile ring. So when will the Ghanaian ruling classes begin to make Reparations to the masses of Ghanaian people by repairing the vast damage they have caused?
It must be noted that Africans voted Kwame Nkrumah the African Man of the Millennium. Every African politician who aspires to greatness now describe himself as a Pan Africanist. The one thing that they would not do is to implement Nkrumah's programme for a continental African government and for self-reliance in economic development.
In a recent speech in Namibia, the African Queen Winnie Mandela called on African women to return to Africa to fight neo-liberalism. She said, Let us call on all Africa's children in all parts of the world where they are dispersed. This call should be, return and make your contribution to the re-awakening of Kwame Nkrumah's African Giant." But Winnie Nomzamo Mandela has been under constant attack from forces both inside and outside the ANC from the time that she said, "We are not fighting against apartheid, we are fighting to get control of our land back."
If one takes a closer look at the damage the Fulanis have caused during the time they have been on the political stage, one would say that it is time that they were moved off the political stage. With their fellow Northern Nigerian Moslems, they from part of the kleptocracy who destroyed the vast potential of Nigeria to become a modern state driven by science and technology. They fed at the trough of the military bandits Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. With all their ill-gotten gains, they showed no sympathy for the needs of the Islamic masses much less for the non-Islamic masses.
With the demise of Abacha and the coming to power of Obasanjo, the Fulanis, together with their fellow Northern Moslems, have sought to disrupt the Nigerian state so that their fellow Moslems could resume power. As one commentator states, "What is noticeable is that despite their long years ruling the Nigerian state, whether as civilians or in military clothing, the areas controlled by these Moslems are the most underdeveloped parts of Nigeria." They failed to provide education, adequate health and social benefits to their masses who are the poorest people in Nigeria while they are exceedingly rich.
These Muslim rulers, who have shown nothing but contempt for the needs and welfare of the masses of Nigerians, are the instigators of the plot to unseat Obasanjo by impeaching him. This is a reflection of their slave-trading mentality. Their primary concern is to get their hands on the reigns of power again so that they can loot Nigeria again, big time. But are these power hungry Northerners the real author of the plot to unseat Obasanjo.
Obasanjo is playing a very interesting game. On the one hand, he is opposed to Reparations for slavery and colonialism and one of the promoters of NEPAD. On the other hand, he is at war with the IMF, has called for a second African liberation and has described globalisation as bondage for the Black race. Also notable, is the manner in which he has defied Britain, the United States and the European Union over Zimbabwe.
One should not be surprised that the Fulani-Nothern Moslem kleptocrats are joined by other sections of the Nigerian ruling classes. In that part of Africa, various slave-trading cities grew up at several mouths of the Niger River and along