Published On: Wed, Jan 13th, 2016

Compassion, really?

dekker_0Ghana, or Wagadu, the empire in the region of today’s Mauritania and not the present country Ghana, was the earliest known empire of the western Sudan or Sahel near the end of the eighth century but probably originated long before. Koumbi Saleh and Al Gaba formed the great capital and religious-administrative center.

"Land of Gold," Ghana, was said to possess sophisticated methods of administration and taxation, large armies, and a royal monopoly over well-concealed gold mines, worked by tens of thousands of slaves. Extensive slave trading was feeding the constant demand for hard labor to maintain the royal monopolies.

The king of the Soninke people who founded Ghana never fully embraced Islam, but good relations with Muslim slave traders were fostered out of economic greed and need. Ghana’s imperial power was broken by a long struggle with the Almoravids in today’s Marrocco, toward the end of the eleventh century. Ghana subsequently fell to the expanding Soso kingdom and was absorbed in the Mali and Songhay empires in the 15th and 16th century.

Long before the Europeans appeared on the West African scene with the Transatlantic Slave Trade, almost a thousand years of slavery and slave trading, handling millions of people, changed the demographics and tribal divide of Africa forever.

Today, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, the Sokoto caliphate of Nigeria as well as most of the West African cocoa states continue slavery and slave trade with an estimated 500,000- 1,000,000 people per year. The slave trade in Africa is today more extensive and more ruthless than it has ever been in world history.

Since 2000, in savage local wars portrayed by the international press as tribal warfare, at least, ten million people died in Congo, CAR, Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. Tens of millions became homeless and easy prey to ruthless slave traders; 70% of slaves are sold for forced employment in agriculture and mining.

Brutal behavior towards slaves was demonstrated to the world by Boko Haram warriors in the north of Nigeria, kidnapping and selling hundreds of school girls. ISIS-warriors in the Middle East, auctioning off Yazidi-slaves and thus happily become poster boys for the new slave trade. ISIS slave trade in Libya resurged massively after the fall of Ghadaffi. Al Shabaab in the Sahel and East Africa followed in their footsteps with countless victims.

Never a word of protest against what is happening in Africa today is uttered by and heard of the descendants of African slaves in the Americas and Caribbean. No concerted efforts made on the international diplomatic podium by those who still consider themselves victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade of more than 200 years ago. With some regularity one reads about one or another legal action for reparation payments against mostly wealthy former European colonial powers or companies, to get rich quickly.

During the first part of the 19th century, an active, compassionate conversation motivated politicians and Afro-American slaves to set up an American and a British colony in West Africa for Maroons and 'repatriated' slaves, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Tens of thousands of Caribbean, American and British Maroons, went, only to build a new plantation economy based on slavery. Even the white antebellum houses of South Carolina, with porches and pillars, were copied.

In the light of past and present behavior and attitude, how seriously can we take Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean compassion with slavery in the world?

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