Caribbean keeps up reparations pressure

Bert Wilkinson | 11/3/2016, 9:51 a.m.

Caribbean Community nations are raising awareness about reparations among member nations and keeping up pressure on Western nations such as Britain and France to agree to make reparation payments for the horrific trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The regional commission that was appointed by governments to take on Europe back in 2013 took its awareness campaign to St. Lucia in the eastern Caribbean in the past week, reminding anyone interested in listening that its fight for reparations is a just fight rather than an effort involving begging for alms.

“We are not begging. We are not living in the past. We are claiming what is rightly ours that was lost or stolen from us. And most of all what we lost was our right to culture and identity, to loving and appreciating who we are,” said Hilary Brown, who is in charge of the reparations unit at the Guyana-based headquarters of the regional bloc. “It was the ideology of racism that we have inherited from centuries of oppression which denigrates and devalues everything Black and everything African,” she continued.

Back in 2013, regional governments had agreed to formally begin the process of pushing European nations, which became rich from the free labor of African slaves, to consider paying billions of dollars to governments for what they describe as the worst form of genocide ever inflicted on a group of humans.

The region has already served Britain and other nations with formal letters of complaint detailing its arguments for reparations. The respondents, if they so deem themselves, have two full years to respond, failing which the region would have the right to approach the World Court in the Netherlands to hear the case.

Additionally, Caribbean governments have already hired a British law firm that won millions in court payments for Kenyan resistance fighters who were abused by British soldiers in the colonial era. The firm has advised prime ministers that they have a very strong case to prosecute even as Britain has already said that it does not want to discuss the issue formally.

Brown argues that CARICOM sees the persistent “racial victimization of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today and sees this history of slavery and colonialism as the primary cause of development failure in the Caribbean” as she made the case for reparations from Europe.

She explained, “We must not be ashamed to claim what is rightfully ours, what was extracted against our will for so many centuries. This is why the time has come. This is our moment in history. We now have the confidence, the knowledge and the conviction to say without apology—reparations now.”

Awareness rallies have previously been held in Barbados, Guyana, Suriname and Antigua. Some of the regional demands include a formal apology to the Caribbean, a funded program to rehabilitate victims of slavery, attention to be paid to the public health crisis in the region, psychological rehabilitation for healing and repair of African descendants’ populations, technology transfer for greater access to the world’s science and technology culture and debt cancellation to address the “fiscal entrapment” that faces Caribbean governments that emerged from slavery and colonialism.