|HOW SLAVERY UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA: THE HUMAN RIGHTS ASPECT AND THE NEED FOR REPARATION
Barrister Shipi M Gowok
There are evidences that the twenty centuries of slave trade (not four or five centuries as being touted by western scholars) was unequal dialectical relations between the slaver European and Arab countries- the great beneficiaries- on one hand and Africa on the other hand which wealth was used to develop the former and actually graphically informed the current underdevelopment of the latter. The tragedy at global level is that the effects thereof persist till date disabling Africa to compete with other continents in the sphere of wealth, infrastructural development and ability to address poverty and diseases. Tragically at regional level, the worst hit communities still suffer from stigma, neglect, poverty and discrimination. In deed, the slave raids and trade were characterized by injustices, violence and destruction and thus condemned by governments and civil society groups as a heinous crime committed against humanity. Thence many conventions call for condemnation of slavery, racism and discrimination wherever they are still practiced, and called on the UN and other bodies to try any syndicates and individuals perpetrating these crimes. They also called for action plan to eliminate these ills and as well demand for compensation for Africa and the Diaspora.
To call for reparation for the wealth that was transferred from Africa to particularly Arabian countries, America and its Islands and Europe is not out of place considering that the UN, AU and many conventions and the civil society are encouraging the enforcement of respect for fundamental human rights, assistance to the disadvantaged countries in forms of aid, and so on. It is humane to assist the underdeveloped, and it is equitable to do so.
Conventions have suggested the setting up of a research network on the impact of slave trade and fact finding of worst hit case studies as one of the programmes for action. Pursuant to this, this paper will make an elaborate illustration with some parts of Africa that were affected by slavery/slave trade in one way or the other, for example the Central Nigeria, the Greater Jolof in Senegal, the Oyo Empire in Nigeria, the Kongo Kingdom in Angola, the Akan of Ghana etc. These communities are microcosm of Africa. How they were underdeveloped by slavery is the reflection of what happened in other parts of Africa. The slave trade underdeveloped many African communities which were further subordinated to the former slavers by the colonial rule. The former slavers until date maintain the status quo of discriminating and marginalizing the wounded communities. Slavery is undertaken in modern times in the form of human trafficking. This is a sustained violation of the right to dignity, integrity, honour and reputation of Africans/persons affected. The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights is clear on this. These communities and indeed Africa and Africans in Diaspora need reparation/ restoration for the crime of slavery.
One of the major objectives of this paper is to attempt an analysis of the thorny question of reparations for the crime of slavery, current practices as well as the efforts to fight this scourge at national, regional and global levels. A further attempt with case study will show how slavery underdeveloped Africa. Slavery was abolished officially at the global level in 1807 but it is still practiced in modern times in one form or the other. The prominent being human trafficking1. Slavery in international law has come to be regarded as a crime against humanity and thus a subject of human rights violation. Secondly, the paper will respond to the recommended ‘Programme of Action’ by the UN sponsored NGO Forum of the WCAR2, which called for following: (a) the establishment of a working group on African and African descendants through out the world; b) the UN to promote and protect human rights; c) establish “an international tribunal to measure the extent of the damages resulting from the slave trade, slavery and colonialism on Africans and African descendants”; and, d) “to establish and resource a world institute based in Africa dedicated to research, fact finding and resource networking for Africans and Africans in Diaspora.” Thirdly, the paper will reveal some new facts about the damages caused by the slave trade, colonial exploitation and neocolonial marginalization of those communities that were raided. The final objective is to submit what type of reparation/restoration will be feasible and to whom. The historical development of slavery, its consequences as an underdevelopment and human rights violation phenomenon and definition of terms cannot be ruled out in this paper.
Expending human intellect and resources on researches that explain human problems with a view to understanding how to overcome them are some of the major responsibilities of human rights activists. In line with humanism, human rights encourage better welfare, progressive/dynamic society, critical understanding and objective presentation of issues, stress restoration of those wounded in the course of historical movements, encourage good cultural values and ethics, peace and mutual co-existence.
Some of the problems that justify this paper are the following:
Some critique of reparation raised the question of "to whom?"3 This call for submitting lucid case studies like central Nigeria and some parts of Africa where there still exist pockets of some poverty-stricken, neglected and so very backward societies as result of centuries of slave trade, colonial exploitation and neocolonial whims and caprices. Their settlements were completely destroyed by the slave raids and the few survivors took refuge on hill-tops and deep forests and have remained in those places since then. While others wantonly raided them, traded, initiated some crafts and had wide network of social and cultural contacts, the hilltop settlements could not and therefore unable to compete with the slavers. As a result, some of these groups are right now endangered.
2.1 Historical development of slavery/slave trade
There is serious contempt between the advanced world and Africa as Africans argue that the slave trade era was responsible for the disorganization and underdevelopment of Africa (Inikori, 1977; 1982; Rodney, 1979). There are records of the huge trafficking of Africans through Trans-Sahara; Trans-Mediterranean; Trans-Red-Sea; Trans-Indian Ocean and Trans-Atlantic slave trades. The debut of trafficking started during the Roman Empire when it defeated Carthage in 146 bc and established its first province in Africa. Later, Rome also added Numidia and Mauritania as provinces when the North African General, Lucius Septimius Severus, became emperor in ad 193,4 and African slaves were taken to Rome to build their stadia and roads. Although there is no surviving written record of the number of slaves taken to Rome nor of the number of settlements that were destroyed in the course of this nefarious activity, there are testimonies of enormous destruction of the African communities. With the rise of Islam and Jihads in the Middle East in the 9th century, many Arabs flooded Africa as refugees and as bread and butter affair they became engaged in slavery and started to traffic out Africans to the Arab world. Under Air ibn-al-As the Muslims penetrated Africa and invaded Egypt first and succeeded in conquering the whole Maghrib by 790 AD. The Beni-Hilal and Beni-Soleinn Arabs were deported from central Arabia to Upper Egypt in the 1040's. There they became a nuisance and were turned loose eastward by the Egyptian rulers in 1045. Ibn Khaldum described them to have acted like “a swarm of locusts destroying all in their path” and displaced 300,000 Africans from the right bank of the Nile. The invaders proceeded to Tripolitania and Tunisia and like vandals “unable to adapt and mix with their hosts, their rapacity knew no bounds; their cruelty was abnormal; they lay waste and never rebuilt. They found Africa flourishing and they left it desolate, and have ever afterwards given their name to a spirit of wanton destructiveness been uncouth nomadic tribes with no respect for others’ culture and aesthetics".5 Similarly, the activities of Muslim jihadists across Africa invited Arabs to come and help them to terrorize non-Muslims and Muslim political opponents alike.6 Arab slave raiders also penetrated all the corners of Africa over more than a thousand years engaged in the trans-Saharan slave trade which over 10 million enslaved men, women, and children were taken to the harems, royal households, and armies of the Arab, Turkish, and Persian rulers in those regions. An under-estimated 13 million slaves are claimed to have left Africa via the Atlantic trade, and more than 10 million arrived at New World of Americas, while it is very likely that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade must have trafficked five times the given figure. Historians under-estimated that between 1.5 and 2 million slaves died during the journey to the New World.7 Some scholars like Inikori informed that since many people died in the course of slave raid, many settlements burnt down, the known number of slaves should be multiplied by at least three for a conservative estimate of the damage.
Counting from the first century when the Roman Empire started trafficking out Africans to 1937 when the British finally forcibly stopped the slave trade en-mass, the slave trade lasted for 20 centuries, and not the under-estimated five centuries.
The tragedy continued throughout the colonial period as the colonial governments in Africa that outwardly disapproved of slavery still needed inexpensive laborers for agriculture, industry, and other work projects. As a result, African leaders and former slave owners, as well as colonial officials, often developed methods of coercing Africans to work without pay or for minimal compensation by exploiting the peasants particularly the non-Muslims. Moreover, the outlawing of slavery did not erase the pain and stigma of having been a slave. Many descendants of slaves were affected by this stigma for generations after slavery was abolished8 and continues till date, as the case study below will show
Many of the giant banks and multi-national corporations today have their initial capital traced to the primitive accumulation and slave trade, but are yet to show appreciation by aiding suffering Africa in any little way. In fact, despite the so many conventions and NGOs’ appeal for assistance to help the worst hit groups, very few Multi-National Companies and Great Governments responded.
In this age of democracy and human rights activism, it will be unjust to continue to watch those communities encapsulated in underdevelopment and suffering unconcerned. The call for restoration of those still suffering from centuries of slave trade is not an outrageous demand, but desire for humanism makes it a moral issue and to bring comfort for the disadvantaged who were affected by the slave trade which dialectically and exceedingly enriched others. Restoration will go a long way to create the understanding that the rich groups care for the underprivileged, lay down projects that will encourage peace and co-existence, which in turn will hasten global integration and demand for modern things.
2.2 How slavery underdeveloped Africa
Before slave trade reached the apogee of its ruthlessness in the 15th- 18th centuries, from Cape Town to Cairo and from Mombassa to Dakar, Africa was a serene and developed continent in its rights. However, when slavery was officially ‘’abolished’’ in 1807, monumental consequences which still pervades trail the continent. These consequences can be seen in demographic, political, social and economic perspectives.
2.3 Demographic consequences
This is the most difficult to investigate but at least a minimum benchmark of how Africa is affected in this regard can be ascertained. Not only is the number of slaves exported uncertain, but there is no reliable way of estimating loss of life before embarkation, nor do we know how large the population of Africa was at the advent of slavery. Conservative estimate suggest that about 13 million Africans were illegally transported from the shore of West Africa alone forgetting the pockets of illegal export from other parts of Africa. Between 1.5 to 2 million are said to have died during the voyage. As noted earlier, Inikori has observed that for historians to have a correct number for the purposes of the calculation of damages we should multiplied by three times the number often touted. Patrick Manning (a historian/ anthropologist) took census data for 1931, assumed a natural or intrinsic population growth rate of 0.5 per cent a year for most of the previous centuries, and concluded that the area of Western Africa supplying the Atlantic slave trade contained 25 million people in 1700.9 Using the known age and sex composition of slaves exported, plus estimates of casualties at earlier stages in the trade, he calculated that by 1850 the equivalent population had fallen to about 20 million, with the worst losses in Angola and the Bight of Benin.10 Manning went further to assumed, using the same calculation, that in 1850, but for the slave trade, the population of all sub-Saharan Africa might have been about 100 million but was in fact 50 million.11 As can be seen it was the able-bodied young men and women that were the victims of capture. This constituted the virile group and when most of them were taken to the New World, Africa suffered its worst decline in both human resource and intellect. Human resource is wealth. China, India, Indonesia among others is concrete examples of countries that have used their human resource to develop. If the number of persons exported was left in Africa one would have imagined the development contribution that their generations will contribute to Africa. The slave trade was a demographic catastrophe to Africa.
2.4 Political consequences
One of the greatest consequences of the slave trade in Africa was its negative impact on the political set up of most African kingdoms, empires and communities. Before slave trade assumed commercial status, many states in Africa were politically organized and stable. The slave trade was to shape the character of these states in a mercantilist direction thereby loosing the traditional touch of ruling the people for the common good. The new rulers and the powers that be became more interested in commerce to the detriment of African democracy. Internecine wars propelled by the need for slaves became the order of the day and consequently many states emerge in quick succession. Some institutionalized states for example the Greater Jolof in Senegal, the Kongo Empire in Angola and the Oyo Empire in Western Nigeria disintegrated during the slave trade.
2.5 The Greater Jolof Kingdom of Senegal
This was one of the first important kingdoms that the Portuguese had contact with in West Africa in the 15th Century.12 This was a land empire, based in the inland savanna, dominated by cavalrymen, deeply engaged in trans -Atlantic trade, and exercising only loose suzerainty over its four Wolof units-nuclear Jolof, Waalo,Kajoor, Bawol and its Serer subjects.13 The Portuguese were engaged in selling horses to the Wolof coastal states in return for slaves and this greatly affected the Greater Jolof which eventually disintegrated during the 1490's war that led to the emergence of Futa Toro.
The Kongo Kingdom in Angola, the Oyo Kingdom in Nigeria all disintegrated because of slave trade. The Akan people of Ghana who were prosperous gold merchants were victims of the destabilization of slave trade in the 17th century. With the introduction of slave trade the center fell and things were no longer the same.
2.6 Economic and social consequences
The slave trade impacted worst on Africa's economy and societies than other factors. Africans especially West Africa traded with the Atlantic world for over 300 hundred years without experiencing any significant economic development14. What became of Africa's economy was a total lull during the period that slave traded lasted. Thriving activities like agriculture, weaving, iron-smelting, commerce etc were stopped or operated on limited levels due to fear of raids and insecurity. For practical examples, along coastal states of Africa such as Angola and river Senegal where slave trade cut deepest, imported cloth from Europe and the America's damage the indigenous textile industries during the 18th century. In the Igboland in Nigeria textile production is thought to have peaked in the 18th century, while the Yoruba cloth, the Asante weaving industry and iron smelting along the Senegal were affected as they found ''better markets'' in Europe to the detriment of its commerce in Africa. In other words, nothing in the Atlantic trade either encouraged change in the structure of African industries or improved the transport system which was crucial then.15
Furthermore, slave trade stunted the development of many African cities for a long time. The slave trade brought division and mutual fear among Africans; populations were being depleted at an alarming rate so the push to come together in larger groups to form cities became remote. It was only after the abolition of slave trade that many cities sprang up in Africa. It is on record that profits from the triangular trade largely accounted for the rising wealth of a number of major European port cities such as Bristol and Liverpool in Britain, Bordeaux and Nantes in France, Amsterdam in Holland.16 Also, European merchants moved into banking and ultimately helped to finance the capitalist factory system of the European industrial revolution to the detriment of Africa.17
One cannot be wrong to assert that slavery gave birth to colonialism which had its effect on the pace of development of Africa.
3 CASE STUDY OF CENTRAL NIGERIA IN THE SLAVE RAIDS AND TRADE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT AND DISCRIMINATION ON THE GBAGYI /GWARI
The debut of mass commercialization of human beings got impetus in Africa when Arabs started to demand for slaves in the 9th century,18 and in central Nigeria possibly as from the 14th century. It became the major item of intercontinental trade in the 16th century when the Europeans initiated the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. In other words, slave trade started with Arabs and later Europeans. Slave trade then became pronounced inter-group relations through which the powerful polities got fire arms from Europeans with which they terrorized the vulnerable groups. This informed the barbarous internecine wars and subsequent underdevelopment. Colonialism was later to protect and sustained slavery in many aspects.
The slavery and slave trade organized by Arab, Asbenawa and Berber slavers particularly as from the 13th century started to reduce the Gbagyi/Gwari and their neighbouring Kankuma/Kangoma groups, who were found as far as Bornu19 and were then the dominant people around Zaria and Hausanized the remnants.20 The rise of the Nupe Kingdom in the end of the 15th century annexed the western Gbagyi and Nupe language evolved from Gbagyi.21 This was when Nupe people evolved as powerful traders on the Niger confluence and with Wangara and Hausa people northwards.An Igala ruler, Tseode Edegi emerged at about the end of the 15th century. He waged wars on the surrounding Gbagyi to the east and other groups and sold out his captives to Europeans.22 In 1840, Nupe jihadists conquered the Gbagyi kingdoms to the east23 and called some of their Gbagyi subordinate as Batati or Bataci or Zazikati implying subjects or slaves.24 The assimilation of the Gbagyi continues till date, as almost all the Nupe settlements in Niger State were originally Gbagyi.25 The Igugbaka around the confluence area organized raids into the various Gbagyi and Bassa communities.26
Fulani and Hausa syndicate-adventurers like Nagwamatse and the Magajin Keffi Yamusa, which activity earned them titles like destroyer of fierce Gwari" and “the master pillager” respectively similarly depopulated central Nigeria. Of course, the emergence and survival of the Sokoto Caliphate was based on slavery and slave trade,27 that at the eve of British conquest it had about 2,000,000 slaves,28 most of who were from central Nigeria. Most of the slaves particularly in Sokoto, Kano and Zaria were from Nasarawa Province. Also, Ilorin and other Nupe areas like Bida, Lapai, Agae, Bajibo and Jeba had large concentration of slaves most of who were Gbagyi and Bassa for plantation (tungazi) agriculture which farmed cotton, groundnut and other things to supply the Royal Niger Company (RNC). The slaves were also used for padding canoes.29 That was why “slavery figured prominently in the (colonial) conquest itself.”30 Magajin Keffi Yamusa ‘the master pillager’ killed Capt. Moloney in order to continue with his cherished headhunting in the neighbourhood. Thus, the British justified the conquest of the Emirates with slavery and slave trade.31 It was the colonial rule that forcibly stopped it in Northern Nigeria by 1930, when “slavery was very much a functional institution. People were still being enslaved, and the trade in slaves was of considerable proportions.” Most of the Emirate rulers insisted in the slavery institution and clandestinely continued to practice slavery up to independence.
Some Muslim communities and syndicates in northern Nigerian cities are still indulging in slavery and slave trade today.32 Presently are well-known Arab African Slave Trade routes across West, Sahara and Northern African countries dealing in slaves and slave estates.33
The Gbagyi (Gwari) people, as with many others in central Nigeria are under the tragedy of slave trade, as slavery did not only become a stigma identity on them, but that the colonial rule further super-imposed their former raiders on them and which legacy of marginalization has continued to date. Their neighbors still mock them ad “Gwari Bauta”; “Gwari Bawa”, and other derogatory references.34 Many studies have concluded that the comparatively low population of the Central Nigeria is a result of centuries of slave raids and trade.35 Slavery and slave trade in the confluence area particularly as from the 15th century were pronounced phenomena. It was not until the outbreak of the Sokoto Jihad that the Muslim syndicates raided the region seriously. The Gwari/Gbagyi who were still inhabiting the area west of the Bauchi Plateau in the beginning of the 19th century became greatly reduced as their settlements were annexed to the slavers’ polities and suffered raids,36 and had new balance of power with Ebira polity of Igugbaka on the confluence; Nupe Bida polity on the Niger to the west; the Keffi, Nasarawa, Jama’an Dororo, Lafia emirates to the east; and Bida Emirates and Abuja kingdom surrounding them in the north. By the beginning of the 19th century, the Gbagyi were reduced to Zaria-Kontagora westwards and Zaria Koton Karfe southwards. The slave raids had a dialectical relationship as the new polities with Zaria and Sokoto as paramount capitals were swelling with Gbagyi and other slaves, the Gbagyi were paralyzing. Oral testimonies and the statistics of the liberated slaves by the colonial government reveal that most of the slaves in the farm estates and in the households were Gwari.
Indeed, slavery in Sokoto Caliphate has religious differentiation and superiority as can be inferred from the request of the ruler of Nassarawa, Muhammadu Danwayi (1878-1923), who requested for fire-arms from the Royal Niger Company (RNC) in order to conquer the neighbouring tribes, or at least raid them. With the firearm, he raided the confluence area, driving “the Bassa across the Benue and even followed and raided nearly as far as Ida.”37 He pleaded for rifles with which to fight and capture the pagan neighbours. He told MacDonald that he and his people:
were not tillers of the soil, they did not dig the ground neither did they patter worry or palm the oil like the merchants… no, they were fighting people; they fought the pagans and made slaves of them.38
Slaves were for both local and foreign trades. Studies of Oyedele reveal that slaves and horses were the two principal commodities in great demand in the long distance trade across the Sahara. The need for slaves as a commodity for trade warranted the intervention of the state either by establishing strong links with the area where slaves could be obtained easily, for example the Middle Benue and Niger regions, or by conducting expedition for acquiring slave into non-Muslim enclaves and other areas. This role of the state was necessitated by its need for military equipment as well as luxury goods (e.g., Fez cap, turban and kola nuts) and slaves. Slaves served as a form of currency. Without slave from Hausa cities and Borno, most of which were from the Niger-Benue confluence area, the Trans-Sahara trade would have hardly existed.39 Thus, the middle belt area of Nigeria suffered greatly from the 19th century Fulani raids as many people were killed, many forced to migrate, and many enslaved and latter sold to Europeans. Long before the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, the introduction of slave labor in Hausa land influenced introduction of slaves as the means of exchange, carriers, sources of military force, etc. Slaves were sold to the Arabs, some were sold at the banks of the Benue and Niger and eventually taken to the coast.40 Africa consolidated the slavery with their links to other parts of the world. Political power relied on slave armies, and production depended on their labour. External trade involved the sale of slaves, often as a major commodity.41 Most of the slaves sold at Ilorin were from the confluence area, and the Muslims in Ilorin captured mainly non-Muslims, and over 1000 were brought everyday for sale in the mid 19th century. About 4,000 slaves were daily displayed in Zaria and Kano in the tail end of the 19th century.42 By this period in Ilorin, “many slaves were so rich possessing numerous slaves too, horses and cattle of their own, and extensive farms, lands and houses.”43 Thus, slaves were essentially for Trans Sahara Slave trade and Trans Atlantic Slave trade.44
In fact, when Lokoja became the trading centre for both private and government owned British agents, Masaba could fill a European ship annually with ivory, palm oil, shea-butter, lead ore, cotton and others procured from rural inhabitants. Masaba wanted to monopolise the purchase of firearms and therefore asked the British agents not to sell firearms to any other groups except his agents. He used the arms for consolidating and expanding his kingdom.45 The British agents in 1871 asked Masaba to protect them and they ensured that only the Nupe became the middlemen in the trade in the confluence area and the only supplier of British goods to the rest of the Caliphate. This enabled the Nupe “to dominate the surrounding area through the use of British fire arms.” The firearms were paid for in slaves. Simpson saw this himself and reported that Bida was autocratic and “based on slavery and supported by terrorism and sword.” Even the foreign Secretary, Lord Russel, ironically commented that he was “against the 50 muskets – they only encouraged the barbarians (Nupe) to kill one another.”46 Most of the firearms the Jihadists used were from Britain, exchanged with slaves However, the resultant effect of this development “was the encouragement of ethnic exclusiveness and chaotic political atmosphere which characterized the rest of the 19th century.”47 Hence, the British agents made their bias in favour of Muslim rulers very clear. Baikie was of the notion that the British should rate the jihadists as of “superior intelligence and civilization,” the qualities which the heathens lacked. Baikie therefore informed the Europeans to
If obliged always give preference to a Mohammedan as the worshipper of God to an idolater. Never pay any preference to the heathen chiefs or kings below the confluence…. With king of Nupe and Hausa, again be more particular… Their superior intelligence, civilization, position and influences entitle them to a much a larger share of respect and difference.48
With the British firearms, the Emirs continually raided the tribes down to the confluence.49 Ngwamatse went to Nupeland where he raided pagan Gwari population where he got “rich hauls of slaves and booties.”50 Oldfield reported that the jihadist raiders:
Travel very quickly, taking the unsuspected inhabitants by surprise. They seldom fail in capturing hundreds of prisoners as well as cattle, horse... The slaves are disposed of to the Arabs; some are sold at town on the banks on the Niger, and eventually reach the seaside.51
This ethnic and religious character of the raiding parties made the European travelers conclude that the “raids on neighbouring pagans were considered (by the muslins) a pleasant and profitable way of spending the dry season.” And that: “the methods adopted for this end (replenishment of their dissipated economy) were the wholesale plunder of the populace. Slaves were the general currency, and under the extensive system of slavery there was an absence of social cohesion, the mass of the subject pagan peoples being reduced to a state of complete economic and moral paralysis.”52 The triangular slave trade and the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate intensified the introduction of the slave mode of production in the Hausa cities and some capitals of the polities in the Niger Benue confluence area.
Some studies53 elaborated on the declining population of the region and concluded that the comparatively low population of the Central Nigeria was largely attributed to the Jihadists’ activities and slave raids of the non-Muslims in particular.54 The effects of the slave raid of the confluence area was dialectical whereby the Gbagyi speaking people and polities were paralyzed and reduced for the rise of Nupe and Ebira polities in the 18th century, and Sokoto Caliphate in the 19th century. The rise of Keffi Emirate around 1810, Nasarawa and Abuja around 1825, seriously reduced the sizes of the Gbagyi polities of Kurape, Karu, Kurudu, Kuta, Birnin Gwari and others.
European eyewitness accounts described the dramatic decline in the population as a result of the notion and inter-religious class struggle for slaves to be sold into the Tran Sahara and Trans Atlantic trades.23 It is sad to note that there are no reliable statistics of the destroyed settlements, deaths incurred during the head hunting, forced migration and the numbers of slaves taken away from the region. The damage caused by the jihadists can be inferred from the eye-witness-reports of their wanton vandalism. These reports reveal that they destroyed every settlement on their way:
About the beginning of the 19th century, the Fulani invasion commenced in earnest. It was not until about the end of the 19th century that the more Northern District of Nassarawa Province began to suffer from slave-raiders and that parties of Fulani and Habe commenced to settle in them. The first ten years of the 19th century saw certain Fulani and Habe family established in fortified strongholds from whence they raided the surrounding country, and sent northwards long caravans of slaves. They penetrated southwards and even crossed the Benue and raided in the Idah Kingdom. The end of the 19th century saw a complete ruins and depopulation of the Province…. In Nasarawa country, a once fertile and populous province, one can only see the remains and ruins of large and totally deserted town, bearing witness to the desolation wrought by hundred years of internecine strife and slave raiding by the Fulani. 55
The British further noted that the remaining inhabitants of most of the towns fled to the hills in all directions; those who approached the Eastern and north-eastern mountains of the Province, until they learned how to defend themselves, were further raided by the Headhunting tribes who inhabit these hilly localities. Others intermarried with Headhunting tribes and themselves adopted their customs. Such was the chaotic and ruinous state of the Province when the arrival of Sir Frederick Lugard put a stop to the slave-raiding and evolved law and order.56 Usman Sultan of Gwandu sacked Birnin Gwari in 1894 and “devastated the country for miles around and so disrupted and depopulated it that even food was unobtainable. Towns and villages from Kano to Bida literally without number were destroyed and their inhabitants who were peaceful and defenseless natives they treated as cattle to be raided and sold as slaves.57
Slavery and slave trade was legally brought to an end by 1927 in Nigeria and West Africa in general and the table below shows the number of court cases.58
Total to date
4 THE NEED FOR REPARATION
Now that many individual personalities and governments are calling for reparation for the slave trade,59 there is the need to have data of the communities that were damaged in the historical process. We can conceive reparation today to mean restoration or resettlement without indicting anyone, as it will be unwise and hard to blame the descendants of the perpetrators for the historical movement. Reparation is defined as ''the act of giving something to somebody or doing something for them in order to show that you are sorry for suffering that you have caused."60 Here reparation connotes to acknowledge that you are or were engaged in an act which at the time of committing it you never gave a serious thought to its consequences but later feels sorry for doing that act. The act of remedying the wrongful act is to give or do something to show that you are sorry for the harm occasioned to the victim. It would be seen that before, during and after the bicentenary commemorations of the abolition of slavery/ slave trade the global refrain from religious bodies, personalities, politicians and human rights activists is that slavery was and is a crime against humanity and an outright apology/reparation be made to the victims (descendants) of the heinous crime.61 Reparations have been paid for the harm inflicted on a class or race of people.62 For example, since World War II, Germany has paid at least 108 billion Deutsche Marks in reparations to the state of Israel.63 The United States government has paid $ 1.2 billion or $20,000 per person for each Japanese Americans illegally imprisoned in American concentration camps during World War II.64 Thus, these cases have established precedents and payment of reparation is recognised in international law. Therefore, Africa and Africans in Diaspora should not be an exception, because what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. The next question is whether African slavery reparations movement65 should pursue legal paths or political paths to achieve the satisfaction of their claims. Perhaps both paths may be pursued.66 It is thus a clarion call to other institutions that profited from slave labour such as banks, universities, and galleries to consider paying reparations. While the slavers were predominantly Europeans, Arabs were the dealers and many Africans as the procurers. Thus, Europeans and Arabs as well as Africans were syndicate allies in the evil. Their successors are enjoying the proceeds but which practice is obscure and a condemnable phenomenon. We could therefore appeal for restoration of the groups that were worst hit. These were groups who since their destabilization by the slave trade, have continued to live in poverty-stricken and deplorable situation. Such groups still have indelible mark of slave trade. Under international law, ''reparation must, as far as possible wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed.'' 67 Slavery is as old as the history of mankind itself, it is an illegal act, and it is an international institution still practiced worldwide. It needs to be halted and victims compensated. It is a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of victims. The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights emergence is based on the historical experience of Africa which had witnessed the worst human rights violations in the form of slavery and slave trade, colonialism and imperialism. It is in reaction to this bitter past that Article 5 of the Charter provides that,
''Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited."68 The import of this article is that slavery and slave trade are crimes against humanity69 and genocide against a race of peoples and shall be prohibited in its entirety.
Genocide has been defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide70 as the
''intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group by (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group the conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures to prevent births within the group; or (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
The combined reading of the Nuremberg Charter and the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide indicates that slavery/slave trade is a crime against humanity and whoever is engaged in it shall be held responsible for the payment of reparation to the victims. I fully believe that there are legitimate moral reasons for the payment of reparations to Africans and Africans in Diaspora by those who were responsible for the instigation of the trans- Atlantic slave trade. The colonial powers responsible for the slave trade (the British, French, Dutch, Spaniards and Portuguese) would be responsible for African deaths that occur during transshipment. The Nuremberg Tribunal definition of crime against humanity applies to the African slave trade and its aftermath.71 The invocation of the Nuremberg Tribunal as a precedent is profitable because crime against humanity was applied retroactively to the Germans involved in the genocide.72 This assertion is based on my understanding of ‘’the principle of international responsibility which is concerned with the incidence and consequences of illegal acts under international law.’’73 Slavery is an international crime and based on the ‘’Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for International Wrongful Acts’’, if a state breaches an obligation predicated on customary international law, every other state is considered as having suffered legal injury.74 This right is firmly embodied in international human rights instruments and declarative instruments.75 Africans have a locus standi to sue for reparation.
Anthony Gifford in his article ''The Legal Basis of the Claim for Slavery Reparations’’ made some propositions for the claims for reparation. I wish to tow his line of argument and with some modifications proffer ways of getting reparation for the crime of slavery.
First, it should be proved beyond reasonable that the enslavement of Africans was a crime against humanity.76 The definition of crime against humanity as defined in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal did not create a new law but declared and developed concepts of international criminality that had become accepted overtime.77 Africans can show and will proof that the invasion of its territories, the mass capture of Africans especially the virile group, the horrors of the middle passage, the chattelisation of Africans in the New World and the annihilation of the language and culture of the transported people constituted a sustained crime against humanity.78
Secondly, as noted earlier, the claim for reparations has a precedent and is recognised in international law as it has assumed an erga omnes79status, so reparation for slavery in Africa should not be an exception. Africa has a case that merit satisfaction of its claims.
Thirdly, there is no legal barrier preventing the claims for reparations.80 Some may argue that the actual persons who went through the slavery are longed dead and this generation of Africa and Africans in Diaspora can not stand sureties or attorneys for them. The African tradition and values of regarding your neighbour as your brethren is innate in Africans. An African will naturally assumed the responsibility of a fellow African on his head, shoulder and heart without blinking an eye. The New Zealand81 case is an example of a claim by the descendants of the original victims. Israel successfully claimed reparations from West Germany, even though the state of Israel did not exist at the time when the Nazi regime committed its crimes against the Jews.82 Nothing prevents African states to sue for reparations on behalf of its forebears. Slave trade not only affects the physical person, but the conscience of the living. We are the souls of our forebears; we are their reincarnates, thus the blood of our ancestors still flow in us.
Fourthly, the claim should be brought on behalf of all Africans, in Africa and in the Diaspora, through an agreed Representative Body.83 I agree with Anthony Gifford in his proposition that all Africans on the Continent of Africa and in the Diaspora do have an interest in the reparation case. Thus, I suggest that the African Union should revived the African Reparation Movement started by the late Chief M.K.O.Abiola and appoint a Group of Eminent Persons or through the AU General Assembly to prosecute the reparation case on behalf of Africa and the Diaspora in a representative capacity. A well marshaled out Group of Eminent Persons will be given the task by the AU to process the claim.
Fifthly, in consonance with the ‘’Programme of Action’’ suggested at the World Conference Against Racism, the United Nations in partnership with the African Union should establish an international tribunal to measure the extent of the damages resulting from slave trade, slavery…. The tribunal should be based in Africa. The claim amount should be assessed by experts in each aspect of life and in each region of Africa affected by the institution of slavery. Each affected country should be studied. It is not in doubt that before the advent of slave trade, Africa had flourishing civilizations which was destroyed, ordered systems of government were brought down, millions of the strongest young citizens were forcibly removed, and a pattern of depopulation, poverty and underdevelopment resulted.84 It should not be only monetary compensation in the strict sense of the word, but other forms of reparations like apology, restitution, rehabilitation, grant of scholarship to Africans and the Diaspora, satisfaction and guarantee for non-repetition should be pursued.
The issues of slave trade and other inhuman activities and enlightenment programmes of how to deal with them should be revisited while each form of the media should develop columns for free publication.
There should be a catalogue of all groups, cities, institutions and companies whose capitals can be traced to the slave trade era, and be asked to apologize and to embark on restoration to identified destroyed communities. A precedent has been set when President Ronald Reagan signed the 'Civil Liberties Act 1988 and apologized to Japan for the World War II crime "and provided reparations of $20,000 to each survivor, to compensate for the loss of property and liberty during that period."85
NGOs and institutes should put on the priority research list the grants for human rights violation issues.
Scholars and Associations should embark on fact-finding on continuous effects of slave trade, wanton destruction, racial cum religious discrimination which is caused by the effect of slavery in the allocation of resources and public service.
The African Union should revived the struggle for political in addition to legal pursuit of reparations to Africa for the crime of slavery.
Human Rights Commissions and all members of the Anti-Slavery -Trafficking Programme86 should start to accept and try "marginalization" and "discrimination" cases, and recommend equality and social justice in all human endeavors. They should start to estimate cash value and what nature of compensation and restoration for the affected communities as suggested by many conventions.87 Many groups and individuals are of the view that there should be various types of compensations, like scholarship schemes, monetary and infrastructural compensation/restoration where most feasible. Bishop Errol Brooks of North East Caribbean and Aruba argued that:
The psychological scars of slavery are present in many of our societies. These manifest themselves in several ways: discrimination, outright racism, poverty, domestic violence, the feeling of inferiority. There is a mental slavery which is wrecking havoc among many of our people. We need to do whatever we can to assist in freeing the minds of our people; to help them to become what they are- children of God; to let them know and feel that they are persons of worth.88
He went further to suggest what the world and those who profited from the crime of slavery should do.
It would be commendable, if the governments and institutions of those countries which have profited from the slave trade and slavery were to intentionally invest time, money and energy in ensuring that the African continent which was deprived of its precious human resources and the descendants of slaves, were given every opportunity to a full education.
Education is key in the pursuit of warding off the shackles of slavery in all forms. The time for lame, half- hearted apologies is over. Our forebears have invested in the economy of this and other nations, through their blood, sweat and tears. They have given their lives. This is not begging for handout. The price has already been paid.89
It is only by assisting the wounded groups that the guilt of the crime committed centuries ago will be removed. As the Bishop made it clear, the psychological scar of slavery is still present in our societies in awful forms and wrecking havoc.
This paper gives facts about how the slave trade underdeveloped Africa whose descendants were further subordinated to former slavers through segregative colonial policies and the neo-colonial policies maintain the status quo by marginalizing and despising them in the scheme of things. Furthermore, their lands were seized without adequate compensation, exploiting their resources and under-pricing their agricultural products, killing their culture, and abandoning them with psychological damage.
Of course, the consequences of slave trade were obvious. Slave raids caused destruction of settlements, depopulation, disorganization of socio-political setting, inhumanity, and some ethnic groups remain underdeveloped. Slavery gave birth to colonialism and its attendant racial discrimination. Slavery is a crime against humanity.
Human rights activists, the world at large, the civil society and philanthropists should call for social justice and equity, calling for purposeful development of the identified groups still suffering from the slave trade impact through, empowerment and scholarship. It is only by assisting the wounded groups that the mind will be free from guilt.