The legacy of slavery
LAST Friday, August 23, marked UNESCO’s designated Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition. It is a memorial in honour of the more than 15 million victims of the trans-Atlantic commerce in human souls that took place for 400 years, from the 16th to the 19th century. It is also intended to draw attention to the evils of racism and prejudice which still afflict our world today.
Following Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, slavery officially ended in the United States in December 1865. As far back as 1772, an English judge, Lord Mansfield, had ruled in the case of the slave by the name of James Somerset, that every bondman or slave who landed on English soil is, ipso facto, a free man. Slavery officially ended in Britain through an act of Parliament in 1833.
Slavery may have officially ended, but its legacy lives on. Of the 15 million that were transported to the New World, an estimated 10 per cent perished on the high seas. Some revolted and threw themselves overboard to escape their benighted fate. According to some cliometrics experts, as many as 100 million to 200 million Africans perished in the internecine warfare fomented among African kingdoms by European slave traders in the bid to capture more slaves. The human and economic toll was horrendous.
The story of the white man’s assault on the black man did not end with abolition of slavery, however. The so-called Age of “legitimate commerce” and eventually, colonialism, had its own challenges. The conquest of our continent was achieved by force of arms and gunboat diplomacy. Probably as many Africans died during the slave trade as did during the age of imperialism. A particularly heartbreaking example was King Leopold’s nineteenth century Congo Free State; an entity that was neither a state nor was it free. As many as six million Bakongo people perished on account of forced laboured and indentured slavery.
Thousands of workers died building the railways from the hinterland to the coast in West Africa, in Southern Africa and in other parts of our continent. Some of the imperial powers resorted to racial extermination in areas where local African communities launched heroic resistance movements. The Hottentots of the Cape were exterminated by the Dutch Boers while the Germans launched a brutal campaign of genocide against the Herero of South West Africa, now Namibia.
I regard myself as a friend of the Jewish people. I too pray for the peace of Jerusalem. I remember the holocaust and the fate of six million Jews in Nazi concentration camps with deep sorrow. I regard it as a dark anti-enlightenment spot in the long march of European civilisation. But if truth be told, the African holocaust was by far the worst in the entire history of humanity. The only exception was perhaps the indigenous Aztecs and Incas of the Americas, of which 20 million were exterminated by the Spaniards. And yet, for many, it is as if it the trans-Atlantic slave trade never happened. Schoolchildren in Europe are taught little or nothing about it.
It is astonishing that in a country like ours, somebody somewhere sat down and decided to remove the study of history from the school curriculum. A whole generation has grown up without knowing whence they came from, not to talk of where they are going.
I humbly submit that no people have suffered the kind of assaults that the African people have endured from the rest of humanity. While the Europeans were battering us in the coast, the Arabs were hunting down slaves from across the Sahara. The Arabs were the first to engage in slave trade and they were the last to give it up. As a matter of fact, slavery still goes on in places like Mauritania and Sudan. I have lived and travelled extensively in the Arab world and I make bold to say that Arab racism is the most evil and the most pernicious on earth.
There is also what we term “the New Slavery.” It refers to the contemporary phenomenon of human trafficking from Africa to the rest of the world. There are people out there who specialise in trapping young men and women to travel abroad to be used for forced labour, prostitution and other forms of enslavement. Many African slaves today are used for harvesting vital organs to be sold in Asia, Arabia and the Western world. There are young Africans who are literarily working under slave conditions in the citrus farms of Italy, Spain and Greece. There are prostitution rings involving young African women in many parts of Europe and the Arab world.
I could not sleep for days when someone sent me a video clip of a young woman African sex slave in one of the Gulf States. After being serially raped, she must lie upside down, opening her mouth for her master to perform his toilet over her. She serves as his toilet on pain of death. Every day thousands of youths from West Africa embark on the hazardous trek across the Sahara in pursuit of a non-existing Eldorado in Europe. Many die in the hands of Tuareg pirates before they get to North Africa.
Others die either from hunger and thirst or from wild animals. They are often captured and used as slaves in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. They pay extortionate fares to get on rickety boats with the aim of getting to Europe. Many of these boats capsize. Some are deliberately brought down. Those who manage to make it into Europe are often captured and taken to refugee camps that are reminiscent of Hitler’s concentration camps. Many sink without a trace – never to be heard of again!
In many of our home countries in Africa, slavery persists in various forms. Boko Haram deploys enslavement, forced conversions and sex slavery as weapons of war. The herdsmen militias that are killing, maiming and raping defenceless communities throughout our country also deploy enslavement as a weapon of warfare. They often pursue scorched earth policies. Once they wipe off the indigenes and take over their ancestral lands, they rename the villages and make them their own permanent homesteads. They have done that in Zamfara, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue and Taraba.
I humbly submit that no group of people have suffered such unspeakable crimes as the African people have done since time immemorial. Such experiences have inevitably imposed a heavy toll on our collective. This explains why Africans feel no confidence in themselves. Without such confidence we cannot build new inner-directed and inner-propelled prosperous industrial-technological democracies on our glorious continent.
This dilemma is further complicated by what the late Kenyan political scientist Ali Mazrui termed “Global Apartheid.” Global Apartheid comes in many forms. In academia it is fuelled by pseudo-scientific race theories that spread the evil lies of intellectual-cognitive deficiencies in the DNA of African people. They also strenuously deny that ancient Pharaonic Egypt was an African civilisation. Some are so stupid enough as to propagate the theory that the pyramids were built by aliens!
Global Apartheid works through multinational companies that exploit our untold mineral wealth while we remain poor. It works through shadowy economic hit men and trans-Atlantic secret clubs such as the Mont Pelerin Society, the Trilateral Commission, the Club of Rome and the Bilderberg Group that patently exclude Africans from their inner sanctums. Through mass media manipulation, Hollywood propaganda and subliminal brainwashing black people have been consigned to the scrapheap of history.
I will not want to dwell too much on the politics of viral diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola. Some African scientists such as the distinguished South African medical scientist Professor William Magkoba have their own theories about the origins and epidemiology of these viral scourges. Malegapuru William Makgoba was the most outstanding medical graduate throughout South Africa during his time. He was a scholar of Oxford University where he completed his doctorate. He later taught and researched at University College London. He is nobody’s fool. At least, it is a known fact that during the days of Apartheid, the Boers were deliberately spreading the HIV/AIDS virus among the black population as a weapon of population warfare. Given the way our contemporary trans-Atlantic Babylonian power system operates, there is no depth to which evil cannot sink.
Official slavery may be dead, but its spirit is very much alive and kicking. It is up to our generation of leaders to read the signs of the times and to rise up to the occasion. The fate of a billion black people on earth depends on us.