Comment and Analysis

Arabs and the West must pay for slavery, says Pan-African Congress

Bennie Bunsee

The 8th Pan-African Congress has called for reparations regarding the extensive and continuing damage colonialism has done, writes Bennie Bunsee.

A new concept came out of the 8th Pan-African Congress, that of the global African family. (AFP)

The 8th Pan-African Congress, held at the University of Johannesburg last week, broke new ground and showed that pan-Africanism is a developing ideology that can meet the dynamic changes occurring in our world.

African governments were not invited because of intervention at the last such congress, held in Uganda, when President Yoweri Musuveni's henchman, Uganda's chief intelligence officer, took hold of the meeting and moved it away from its original purpose.

Kwesi Prah and his colleague Bankie Foster Bankie of Namibia were the driving forces behind the organisation of the 8th Pan-African Congress.

Pan-Africanism can be described as the universal and abiding doctrine of global African liberation. It was born in the diaspora in the wake of the Atlantic slavery of over 20-million Africans and reflected the hunger of the enslaved Africans to overcome their dispersal, dispossession and dehumanisation.

As a truly grassroots congress of ordinary organisations and representatives it sent a message to the corrupt leaders of African states that they cannot be trusted with the continent's future destiny.

A new concept came out of the congress, that of the global African family. This particularly related to how the African diaspora describes itself as an integral part of its motherland with a right to return and ­settlement – something the congress vigorously called for.

The congress was confined to Africans and people of African descent – and included representatives from all five continents. Nobody can speak for African interests but Africans themselves.

The congress did not allow participation from Arab countries in North Africa. It also condemned Arab slavery and its accompanying racism towards African people. Arab slavery predated the European-driven Atlantic slave trade by centuries.

It was pointed out that Arabs came from Asia to inhabit North Africa and in all Arab countries where Africans were a minority they faced racist discrimination and Arabisation. Arab countries should compensate with due reparations for the damages inflicted on African people. The congress demanded that reparations from Western nations should be pursued vigorously and that there should be a day when black workers throughout the world should stay away from work to mark the need for reparations.

Hilary Beckles of the Caribbean Commission for Reparations laid out the case for reparations regarding the extensive and continuing damage that colonialism has done to the African people globally and that continues today with neoliberal policies. It transcended an economic analysis to reveal the deeper psychological damage on the individual psyche of the global African family resulting in a pervasive alienation in all aspects of its environmental surroundings.

Bennie Bunsee is editor of Ikwezi, a journal of South African and Southern African political analysis.

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