Fri, 01 Dec 2023

US and Europe were built on "sweat, tears, blood and horrors" of slave trade, Ghana's president tells UN

No amount of money would be enough to compensate Africa for the horrors of the slave trade, but reparations must still be paid by the West as an acknowledgment of the crime, Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo said during the UN General Assembly. 

"The world should not pretend" that the economic and social problems currently experienced by the African continent "have nothing to do with the historical injustices that have fashioned the structures of the world," Akufo-Addo told world leaders in New York on Wednesday.

"Much of Europe and the US have been built from the vast wealth harvested from the sweat, tears, blood and horrors on the transatlantic slave trade [between the 16th and the 19th centuries] and the centuries of colonial exploitation," he said.

It's no wonder that African countries are struggling to build prosperous societies after they had "their natural resources looted and their peoples traded as commodities" for such a long time, the president added.

Akufo-Addo acknowledged that modern Europeans and Americans "aren't the ones that engaged in the slave trade." However, he pointed out that the forceful transfer of Africans across the Atlantic was "state-sponsored and deliberate and its benefits are clearly interwoven with the present-day economic architecture" of the Western countries behind it.

"Reparations must be paid for the slave trade," Ghana's leader insisted, before being interrupted by a round of applause.

"No amount of money will ever make up for the horrors, but it would make the point that evil was perpetrated, that millions of productive Africans were snatched from the embrace of our continent, and put to work in the Americas and the Caribbean without compensation for their labor," he said.

The issue of reparations will be discussed further at a dedicated conference to be held in Ghana's capital Accra in November under the auspices of the African Union, Akufo-Addo added.

His speech was delivered on the eve of Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day, when Ghana, which has a population of about 33 million, celebrates Francis Kwame Nkrumah, a prominent fighter against colonialism and the country's first prime minister and president after it gained independence from Britain in the late 1950s.

READ MORE: West needs to listen to Global South - UK

On Tuesday, the UN issued a report advising countries on a set of measures, including financial compensation, to address colonialism and the enslavement of African descendants.

"No state has comprehensively accounted for the past and addressed its contemporary legacies" for having "violently" uprooted an estimated 25 to 30 million people from Africa, the report claimed.

The UN also stressed in the paper that the length of time that has passed and the difficulty of identifying perpetrators and victims of the slave trade can't be the basis for nullifying those legal obligations.

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