Enoch Kavindele: Africa still suffers and bleeds from slavery

From a speech given by the Vice-President of the Republic of Zambia at the World Conference against Racism, in South Africa
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The Independent Online

We have come to Durban to liberate ourselves from historical injustices committed against mankind in the form of slavery and servitude, and to emphasise that slavery should not be remembered as an appalling tragedy, but also as a factor that for centuries deprived Africa of her human and natural resources.

We must accept the fact that it is the resources plundered over centuries, the oppression and displacement of human capital, which have seriously impaired African development to this very day.

As a consequence of the inhuman slave trade and colonialism, African people have suffered great inequality. History is replete with one racial group suffering in slavery of another. Even the Holy Bible gives us a moving account of slavery and liberation of communities. Our task is to change the course of our modern history for the better.

The Berlin Conference of 1886 on the partition of Africa drew its moral authority from the fact that people who lived in the African continent were too inferior to be consulted when arbitrary boundaries and ownership of their native lands were being decided.

Africa requests an audience, so that the world can honour and take responsibility for the memory and recognition of the crime of slavery and colonialism in recent history. Failure to that will mean that black people will continue to be viewed as property, whose value fluctuates according to the laws of demand and supply. Our modern democratic systems of government cannot allow that.

Africa's fractured course of development must be repaired, and allowed to run its own course, especially given the advantages of modern technology and the political democratic dispensation in the world today.

Africa wants to remind the world that there is no need to look for the sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in the darkness of our minds and hearts.

The church has indeed done a great deal to bring about reconciliation in human relations over the years. The church at least accepts the fact that "slave trade was the greatest practical evil which has ever afflicted the human race."

Zambia shares the doubts of Lord Grenville, British Prime Minister from 1806 to 1809, who wondered, "can we flatter ourselves that the mischief which the (slave) trade has created will not be remembered for many ages, to our reproach?"

The Zambian people feel that Grenville was correct in that assessment, because, although slavery was a legal trade, as shown by the charter of the Royal Africa Company of 1672, no one was born a slave, because everyone is born with all his human rights and dignity. In this regard, therefore, slavery and the slave trade were and still remain a violation of human rights.

Zambia agrees with the rest of the world that many other peoples and races around the world are victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. However, the cry for Africa is that all the victims of abuses of human rights in the more recent past have been adequately redressed for the wrongs done to them, while Africa continues to suffer and bleed in the aftermath of slavery and colonialism.

We must share the view of Lord Palmerston who, participating in the House of Commons debate in 1844, said: "If all crimes which the human race has committed from creation down to the present day, were added together in one vast aggregate, they would scarcely equal the amount of guilt which has been incurred by mankind in connection with this diabolical slave trade."

This statement, made 156 years ago, is as correct now as it was then. The black people deserve full redress of the injustices of slavery.

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