The recent presentation by renowned activist and lawyer, Michael Lorne on Reparations for the National Slave Route Project and as part of St. Kitts-Nevis History and Heritage Month activities, presented a rather unique and compelling perspective.
While the descendants of those who were enslaved are undoubtedly owed an unreserved apology, for the abomination that was slavery from all states who benefited from the trade, this apology should go much further than the “statement of deep sorrow” offered by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006. I can understand the practicalities and merits of some sort of financial compensation too, however, what I have yet to hear is what then? What do those beneficiary countries do with the windfall?
The concern I have is that if we take a moment of pause and consider the report card or the respective positions of most if not all African and Caribbean states after 25 to 50+ years of independence from one colonial master or other, what grade would you give? Well with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, Standard and Poor’s doesn’t give a single other Caribbean or African country a Credit Rating of A.
As criminal as slavery is and as bad as our ancestors suffered centuries ago, our present predicament can’t be laid at the feet of slave owners centuries ago, not after 25 plus years of “Independence”. We have allowed ourselves to be divided and led a merry dance by savvy political masters who seem intent to do nothing at best in terms of developing their countries and at worse, to amass personal wealth for themselves and their friends.
In the Caribbean our economies and national development appear stalled if not in reverse. Just weeks ago the Prime Minister of St. Vincent & The Grenadines lambasted CARICOM for a generation of inaction. However, as a leader in power for more than a decade one can only wonder whether he hasn’t been in a position to implement and effect some of the change and action he called for?
Then one of the more compelling questions or concern would be what would we do with any reparations money? The European Union (EU) and CARICOM states agreed grants to the tune of 165M Euro, over a six year period in 2008. We’re nearing the end of that period and how many of our islands can say they have seen or more importantly benefited from a cent of this money, or can point to a project, a physical asset acquired through these funds?
This and several other projects funded by the EU are effectively reparations money and one only has to look around the region to learn of stalled, failed or poorly implemented EU projects which have resulted in MILLIONS of Euro being returned to Brussels! So what use would be reparations money, when we can’t effectively use the significant sums we’ve been allocated already?
We need to demand better and proper leadership and proper management of our resources, beginning with the effective use and investment in our people! I heard a statement about Africa which can equally be attributed to the Caribbean, and that was that, “Africa isn’t poor, it’s poorly managed!”
We need to demand better management of our islands and their resources; otherwise we will end up like the man who had his one talent taken away!