Wed, Mar 28, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Guyanese president calls for slavery reparations

`AFRICAN HOLOCAUST' The Guyanese president said that comments by Western leaders needed to be backed up by action if they were to be taken seriously


European nations should pay reparations for the horrors of the slave trade, Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo said on Monday, denouncing as mere lip service recent comments condemning slavery.

"Now that some members of the international community have recognized their active role in this despicable system, they need to go one step further and support reparations," Jagdeo said.

His apparent swipe at British Prime Minister Tony Blair came in an address to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Britain.

The Guyanese leader called on the international community to recognize that there was not only a Jewish Holocaust, but also an African one.

"Otherwise, their remarks about the horrors of the slave trade and slavery become meaningless and platitudinous and such remarks may be expressed merely to absolve guilt," Jagdeo said.

Blair on Sunday expressed "deep sorrow and regret" for Britain's role in the slave trade, but stopped short of offering a full apology despite repeated calls to do so in the run-up to the bicentenary.

Jagdeo, a descendant of indentured laborers brought from India at the end of slavery to work on sugar cane plantations, noted that Europe has "shown little inclination" to offer reparations.

And he charged that European nations were even now supporting an unfair world trading system that impoverishes, hurts and subjugates small poor and vulnerable countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

Preferential market access for African Caribbean and Pacific bananas, sugar and rice to Europe have been eroded through new global trade rules set up by the WTO.

Jagdeo told the gathering that included British High Commissioner Fraser Wheeler that he was not celebrating the "goodness" of the British parliament in passing the abolition of slave trade act on March 25, 1807.

Instead the slave trade and slavery were abolished thanks to slave revolts and an outcry led by church leaders and abolitionists such as British Member of Parliament William Wilberforce.

Nearly three million black people are thought to have been shipped across the North Atlantic Ocean in British slave boats between 1700 and the start of the 19th century.

Trade in black slaves was banned throughout the British empire by the 1807 law, imposing a fine of 100 pounds for any slave found on any British boat.

Slavery was completely outlawed in British colonies in 1833.

Importing slaves from Africa to the US became illegal under US President Thomas Jefferson on March 2, 1807, but it was not until 1865, during the US Civil War, that slavery was abolished.

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