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Opinions of Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Columnist: Thomas Akanyibah

Lessons Africa never learnt from her past, Pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial slavery

" In everlasting memory of the anguish of our ancestors.

May those who died rest in peace.

May those who return find their roots.

May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice.

We, the living vow to uphold this." The plaque on the Elmina castle reads.

Few weeks ago, I made my maiden visit to the Elmina castle to have a sight of the slave administrative office our colonial masters left behind and have since turned into a tourist site. Sincerely, cold chills of discomfort seized my spine because I did not expect to see and imagine what my grand parents went through.

The tour guide took us through the dungeons in which our grand parents were detained until their transportation to their unknown destinations. The underground prisons were completely dark and poorly aerated. There were no washrooms nor a means of entertainment. He also took us to the outlets where our exhausted grandparents who could not endure life in the condemned cell were thrown into the sea.

He also narrated to us some of the degrading treatments our great parents were subjected to. The rapes and the beastly floggings. "They were carted like bulls and muzzled like dogs. They were starved and treated like the lower class of animals, " He further narrated.

Finally, this attendant took us to the gate of no return. It is a very tiny door through which our ENSLAVED grannies were whisked into the slave ship to begin the journey to their masters.

" How did they acquire our old relatives as slaves"? I believe this a question every neonate would want to ask h/is/er generation but the fact is very horrible and unpalatable.

In a UNESCO paper titled THE VOYAGES: THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE IN ENSLAVED AFRICANS, the author Hilary McDonald Beckles revealed,

"Nevertheless, kidnapping as a means of gaining slaves was both times consuming and expensive, and the European traders preferred to purchase slaves wherever possible. However, this too had complications, since political resistance on the part of local communities had to be addressed. This was overcome as the African rulers concerned, who had initially opposed the Portuguese, gradually began to see the benefits that the trade could bring them since they could use it to dispose of unwanted prisoners of war, criminals and kinless persons in exchange for European goods."

There is, therefore, a clear indication of the conspiracy by traditional Africans in the successes of the slave trade on this continent. One other cruel treatment that was visited on our enslaved grandparents was recorded by Beckles in his UNESCO paper and I quote, "This practice of beheading the bodies of the Africans before throwing them into the sea was thought effective in preventing suicide among the slaves. The Europeans thought that the Africans believed that the soul returned to the ancestors for rebirth after death, and, by beheading the dead bodies of the Africans they could impress upon the survivors that there would be no journey to the ancestors, since the head had been separated from the body and disposed of separately."

This is our past! The Era where our own people were treated like animals. The period where humanity was reduced to subjects of pain and anguish that can never be reconciled. Nevertheless, the trend has not been broken. Slavery still continues in Africa but in a new form.

Albeit official slave trading has ceased, the new shape and form of slavery in Africa occur when the few politicians have hijacked state resources and are wallowing in it without the welfare of their people in thought. We have witnessed primitive rulers like Dada Idi Amin of Uganda, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia etc Africa has suffered countless civil wars and political instabilities in Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola etc.

In addition, Africa continuously looses its youth who doubles as the work force on the Mediterranean sea simply because their own continent is unfavorable for them and would want to obtain greener pastures from the very people who molested, maltreated and degraded our sanctity as human beings. Isn't this a clear case of NEO-SLAVERY? It has been estimated that about one million Africans have died on this perilous journey. Further more, African leaders steal the fiscal remains of their countries and invest them in European and American accounts. Can't we again describe this as an obvious occurrence of Neo slavery?

African leaders would again carry their 'world cups' and then trek to Europe or America just to solicit for alms for projects in their countries and immediately the money arrives, it is stolen again. It is however practically true that the underdevelopment, economic and political crisis Africa continue to suffer is as a result of the lessons she never learned from her past.

The gruesome treatment our ancestors went through should rather encourage us to totally liberate ourselves from all forms of slavery. If slave trading is indeed abolished, then economically, psychologically, academically and religiously, we ought to be emancipated.