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A New Kind Of Slavery, We Are Tolerating It!

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th February 2003 03:00 AM

A COUPLE of weeks ago I was, at the invitation of the Goree Institute (G.I.), again on the Goree Island off the Dakar Coast, Senegal.

A COUPLE of weeks ago I was, at the invitation of the Goree Institute (G.I.), again on the Goree Island off the Dakar Coast, Senegal.

Tajudeen’s Thursday Post card
A COUPLE of weeks ago I was, at the invitation of the Goree Institute (G.I.), again on the Goree Island off the Dakar Coast, Senegal.
Its tranquil atmosphere, picturesque, ageing buildings and the ever friendly islanders are so beguiling and instantly infectious that one may be forgiven for momentarily forgetting to make any
connections to the Island's infamous history as a slave port that made it ‘the Island of no return', the last point of exit for captured slaves.
Its human cargoes hurdled together in a way in which animals cannot be held today without the animal rights groups spilling blood!
One wonders if the island’s serenity of today is nature's way of compensating for the wailing and groaning of thousands that perished while waiting to be shipped away: the sick that were thrown out of the hen houses in which the captured slaves were held or thrown aboard the ship, or the brave many who
preferred being eaten by sharks and drowning to
captivity.
It is one of those worrying aspects of our collective
memory as Africans, that such an Island, like many
others on the east and west coast of Africa, is still relatively unknown to many of our own people. One does not wish to compare suffering or compete for sympathy in terms of human suffering but Africans need to learn from the successful campaigns of the Jews about their holocaust: They do not forgive and never let you forget. Africans tend to forgive and forget too easily and this is partly responsible for our tragic history repeating itself too frequently either in the way we treat ourselves or the way others treat us.
It is most appropriate and highly symbolic that an
institute such as G.I. devoted to scientific research and dissemination of knowledge around the issues of peace, development and democracy, should be based on
the Island that was so crucial to the fundamental negation of these values. Organised slavery against a whole continent continued here for four centuries! It honours the memory of the millions of its unwilling guests carted away by slave dealers from Europe and America and their assortment of local collaborators: Chiefs, kings, queens, warlords and their enforcers.
The sadness of it all is that there is a new kind of
slavery that is equally debilitating to our progress and survival. The only difference is that we are unwilling this time rather we seem to be encouraging it. I have said it on many occasions before and it appeared too harsh. It is sad but true that if a slave ship, properly labelled, were to dock at any of the ports around the African continent, people will rush in, push and pull each other, brandishing their certificates and stupendous CVs to show that they are qualified to be slaves in Europe and America or anywhere else, as long as it is not Africa!
The meeting I was attending at Goree Island was a planning meeting, called by the indomitable writer and Director of the Institute, Breyt Breytenberch, on the
establishment of an African Peace Academy to offer opportunities for reflection, coordination, a platform for parallel diplomacy, and other kinds of intervention for peace building and peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa. It was part of a series of interventions on Peace and Conflict through the Special Initiative for Africa (SIA) of the Ford Foundation). The meeting attracted experts and NGO activists in this area from across Africa and outside, and a core of local participants that included scholars, activists, policy people and community
leaders.
The 10th anniversary of the Goree Institute this year is definitely a good opportunity for it to renew its mandate and also take on new challenges. The APA is one such.
The participants were conscious of the high mortality of previous efforts and are desirous that the APA does
not cover familiar grounds but bring new added value to existing efforts and learn from past mistakes.
African ownership is very important but also sharing with the rest of humanity is crucial.
I left the Island to the reality world at the Senghor International Airport. There was the familiar sight of touts and other hustlers offering all kinds of needless services just in the hope of getting some change. Then the inevitable cancellations of flights that is not surprising to anybody travelling in the West African region that has no competitor when it comes to 'so near yet so far' in terms of travel. I tried my best to fob off as many hustlers as
possible but after some time even the meanest of souls has to succumb, especially when a flight is delayed for so many hours without any explanation. That was how I struck acquaintance with ‘Onyeka' who became my self-appointed guardian angel as I whiled away several hours waiting for almighty Air Cameroon to show up. I do not believe Onyeka is his real name. He has documentation of all kinds necessary to facilitate his movement. He came to Dakar from Nigeria, via Benin republic, through Burkina Faso. He is part of a growing generation of Africans desperate to improve their lot by any means. Dakar is not his final destination (which he told me is 'anywhere in Europe') but for now he is 'trying this and this'. What is he going to do there: 'Anything'!
If we are to reverse the curse of our history we must give the likes of Onyeka hope that they can make it in Africa. They say Rome was not built in a day but the
Romans were there to build it.
Tajudeen28@yahoo.com

A New Kind Of Slavery, We Are Tolerating It!

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