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10 Sep 2001 00:00
MOFFET MOFOKENG, Durban | Thursday
OF all the forms of racism humanity has ever known, trans-atlantic slavery was the most horrible, Surinam government adviser Willem Udenhout said on Wednesday.
“It was unique in its scope and in the nature of its damage to the psyche of the victim,” Udenhout told delegates during a plenary session on Wednesday morning on causes and forms of racism and related intolerances on the sixth day of the World Conference against Racism in Durban.
Udenhout said his country considered slavery crimes against humanity and the international community should unite in its condemnation.
“If the systematic and most abhorrent form of dehumanisation does not constitute a crime against humanity, then what is,” he asked.
Slavery was entrenched in the fabric of societies, shaping minds, and was the root cause of many of the evils in the world today.
He urged delegates in the session to unite in denouncing racism because, if they did not do so, it would disturb world solidarity which was being sought by every country.
“My delegation is therefore convinced that reparations and compensatory measures for acknowledgement of past wrongs,” said Udenhout. The forms, ways and means that this would come about could be negotiable.
Liberian senator Francis Garlawolu said Monrovia seriously denounced, decried, deprecated and condemned all forms of slavery and the slave trade—past and present.
“Every injury has a remedy ... reparations is the remedy commensurate with the gravity of the incalculable injuries so unbearably inflicted on the people of Africa by slave masters,” said Garlawolu.
“I believe that reparations should also cover the depletion of our natural resources by imperialists, they must pay sufficient damages to those countries whose children were enslaved and (for) natural resources unjustly exploited and depleted.”
He went on to say that the US government should compensate African Americans more than just giving a few of them opportunities while the rest of them suffered.
He claimed that the United States was scaring investors into not ploughing money into his country, because Liberia was refusing to take orders from Washington.
“This has seriously undermined our young democracy. How can people say that America supports democracy—maybe democracy in that context means submission to the will of America or mortgaging the sovereignty of one’s country to them,” he said.
Garlawolu said sanctions imposed on his country by the United Nations Security Council prevented his government from travelling to carry out state duties, and that this was also a form of slavery and racism.
South African Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said on Wednesday afternoon an appropriate term for payments of slavery should be reparations and not compensation.
“How do you compensate me for the loss of my freedom, how do you compensate me for the loss of a loved one ... what we must speak about is reparations,” he told journalists at a press briefing at WCAR in Durban.
Tutu was speaking to reporters at the invitation of the Ecumenical Caucus, a group of religious faiths from many countries attending the WCAR.
He said reparations were a way of acknowledging past wrongs and apologising.
“People don’t how liberating it is to confess, they think it is weak people who confess,” he said. - Sapa
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