African Slave's journey – The African Holocaust by Jant Nima
Twenty-five years ago the American television audience had the opportunity to see Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The miniseries made Alex Haley, the author of the book from which the series derived, a household name. The epic, a mixture of facts and fiction, related Haley's ancestral history from a West African village in Gambia to the United States. It has been estimated that 130 million Americans viewed at least one episode of the miseries. The enslavement of Africans and their transport to the American shores have been treated in scores of books and movies. Not too long ago, Amistad, a movie based on the same subject and directed by Steven Spielberg, was highly acclaimed.
The Darkest Period of African History The enslavement of Africans epitomizes the darkest period of African history and utmost evil. For three centuries, Europe has visited upon Africa a holocaust of the extreme kind, through raids and kidnappings, mayhem, cruelty, destruction of family and culture. Should we all forget about the African holocaust, or pay mere lip service to it occasionally while we strive to integrate the global economy of the twenty-first century? Our culture prevents us to take that path because it will be a great dishonor to the ancestors.
The Infamous Trade Facts It has been estimated that between 1520 and 1860, approximately 12 million men, women, and children were uprooted from their natural African environment and forcibly put on European vessels for a life of slavery in the Americas. Bear in mind that for every African captured a larger number perished before reaching the African coast. The journey across the Atlantic Ocean lasted from one to three months, causing millions of enslaved Africans to die from suffocation, diseases, violence, and suicide. This was the Middle Passage.
After Christopher Columbus's "discovery" of the so-called New World in 1492, Spanish adventurers made the trip to the Americas and ended up enslaving the Native Americans in their quest for gold and silver. Soon diseases brought by the newcomers, malnutrition, and Spanish mayhem contributed to the deaths of millions of the natives. Looking for an alternative source of labor, the Europeans opted to bring Africans to the Americas to work alongside the Native Americans.
The export-based plantation complex in the Americas and the Caribbean grew with the arrival of the labor provided by the Africans. Portugal, Spain, England, Holland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, United States, and Brazil made immense profits from the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Italy provided much of the maritime expertise and the financing of the early Portuguese and Spanish explorations of the Americas. Ireland, Scotland, and Wales became officially involved in the infamous trade when they joined with England in 1707 to form the United Kingdom.
Logistics for Reparations Pope John Paul has apologized in 1991 on the island of Goree for the sins of Christian Europe on the African continent. The holocaust had such a debilitating effect that Africa still stands as a shell of herself. Therefore, a simple apology of the Christian pontiff seems inadequate. It behooves Africans to seek for legal redress. In The Debt: What America owes to Blacks, a seminal book, which is now in its eighth print, Harvard-educated lawyer Randall Robinson articulates the case of African Americans against the United States of America. In this book, Mr. Randall Robinson states unequivocally that the United States must compensate African Americans for slavery and subsequent legal discrimination. In the light of the past wrongs pressure must be exerted on the power structures of the country to develop as compensation measures social programs to help the segment of the African American population that is still mired in dire poverty.
On the other hand the Organization of African Unity has formed a group in 1992 to start looking into the logistics and modalities of reparations for the continent. Professor Ali Mazrui, a renown author and historian is a member of this group. In a recent Harvard lecture entitled "African Migrations and American Diversity," he made the point that African collaborators are really derivative victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and that the guilt focus rests on Europe, the initiator and the prime beneficiary of the infamous trade. Professor Ali Mazrui envisions three scenarios for reparations: capital transfer, skill transfer, and power transfer. A capital transfer may be a kind of Marshall Plan for the continent. The skill transfer should encompass ways to create and transfer skills. Finally, the power transfer may encompass more leverage in institutions with world-wide jurisdiction such as the Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.
Collective Therapy At the recent Europe-Africa summit in Cairo, there was virtually no mention of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and modalities to compensate the African continent. Yet these reparations must be the driving force behind the argument about debt relief. These reparations are a sine qua non for the urgent collective therapy for the scourge of racism which stands as the most enduring legacy of the infamous trade. Bear in mind that this scourge emerged on the world scene when Europe decided to justify slavery by creating and promoting arguments purporting the innate inferiority of Africans. Europe must own up to centuries of mayhem in Africa to make the world a better place.