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General News of Tuesday, 10 August 1999

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National House Chiefs apologises for chiefs' role in slave trade

Accra, 10th Aug. 1999 - The National House of Chiefs on Monday apologised to Africans and people of African descent for the role pre-colonial chiefs and elders played in the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Odeefuo Boa Amponsem, Denkyirahene and President of the House, said the body has since 1994 organised and encouraged purification and atonement rites and would continue to "seek forgiveness for the role our fathers played in the brutal and inhuman act."

The Denkyirahene was speaking at the opening of a four-day conference on "Reparation and Repatriation", organised by Afrikan World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission (AWRRTC) in Accra. Over 50 delegates from the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa would discuss and adopt a blue-print to guide the continent's quest for reparation from the West for plundering the continent and the return of their kinsmen from the Diaspora. Odeefuo Boa Amponsem said the West should acknowledge the fact that it was responsible for the plight of Africa and atone for the crimes it has committed against her people.

Dr Hamet Maulana, Co-Chairperson of AWRRTC, said the call for reparations and repatriation is not a fantasy but "a call to right a wrong". He said the slave trade, slavery and colonisation have depopulated and incapacitated the continent to the extent that it needs compensation to make a fresh start.

Dr Maulana, a historian, said 70 per cent of the estimated 200 million black people captured for the Americas "did not even live to taste the white master's whip." Dr Maulana said, "we should never forget that 140 million lives were wasted in the forts, castles and the medical laboratories lest the black race suffer forever." He said Africans have been silent for far too long to demand what she has lost through wicked and immoral means. "The environment is still conducive for us to stand up and demand our stolen wealth to reconstruct our infrastructure, minds and soothe our spirits. We should not carry this load into the next century." His Holiness Osofo Kofi Ameve, of African Renaissance Mission, said Africans are not witch-hunting. "Let us accept the truth and stop feeding the people with distorted historical images that destroy the mind and spirit." He condemned the "beautification of slavery and colonisation", symbolised by the white washing of the forts and castles along the country's coastline. "If they want to identify anything associated with the forts, why not remember and immortalise the men and women, who were dragged through those stinking doors of no return." Mr Sedjro Theophilus Houessinon, Benin's Ambassador in Ghana, asked leaders of African traditional religion to make it more relevant to the present needs of the people. He said Africans were losing their identities by following foreign values and norms that could be adequately addressed by making traditional worship more attractive.