For how long will the Africa people endure? When will there be light at the end of the tunnel? Some historical perspectives may just assist in reconciling with the past and hopefully inspire many to rectify the wrongs and be fired up to do the right thing for humanity’s sake.
In some Southern African Countries, words and Names such as ukumanama, Ukuchuula, Ukupenga, Nadpenga, Ukuyoyota, Ukuyoyomba, Ukukatala, Mapenzi, Mateso, Mapesho, Mabvuto, Nabvutika, Masuzyo symbolises lamentations of problems and challenges in life. And the African people have had their unfair share of problems in their life history.
The Arab Slave Trade – Prophet Muhammad died in or around 632. In 650, the holy book Qur’an (Koran), was codified. In 652, slavery as an organized venture in Africa began in Darfur, where the Sudanese leader at the time was compelled to make a payment of several hundred African slaves per year to the Arab invaders. African slaves were used for agriculture, labor, household help, or to be concubines or soldiers.
The Arab Muslim slave trade also known as the trans-Saharan trade or Eastern slave trade is billed as the longest, having happened for more than 1,300 years while taking millions of Africans away from their continent to work in foreign land in the most inhumane conditions. Franco-Senegalese author and anthropologist Tidiane N’Diaye published his research and book titled “The Veiled Genocide”. He attributed the tag line to the most humiliating and near-death experience slaves were subjected to, from capture in slave markets to labour fields abroad and the harrowing journey in between. The number of slaves captured from Africa in the Trans Sahara trade are estimated at about nine (9) million. That is almost the entire current population of Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Burundi put together and taken away.
The Eastern slave trade in Africa was predominantly concentrated in the East and West African regions. In East Africa the coastal region was the preferred route and Tanzania’s archipelago of Zanzibar became a hub for this trade. Enterprising Arab merchants and middlemen would gather in Zanzibar for raw materials including cloves and ivory. They would then buy black slaves who they would use to carry the raw materials and also work in their plantations abroad. Slaves from as far as Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia would be availed at the Zanzibar market and shipped through the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf or Arabic Peninsula where they worked in Oman, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The retribution should not be restricted or confined towards the Western Countries. Topic for another day.
While European merchants were interested in strongly built young men as labourers in their farms, the Arab merchants were more focused on concubinage capturing women and girls who were turned into sex slaves while living in harems. Male slaves would work as field workers or guards at the harems. To ensure that they never reproduced in case they got intimate with their fellow female slaves, the men and boys were castrated (Eish, ouch, I feel the pain in the groins already). Men and boys were made eunuchs in a brutal operation against their will and majority would lose their lives in the process. “The practice of castration on black male slaves in the most inhumane manner, altered an entire generation as these men could not reproduce. The Arab masters sired children with the black female slaves. This devastation by the men saw those who survived committing suicide. This development explains the modern black Arabs who are still trapped by history,” – Liberty Mukomo, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies.
Even as Europe, one of the key players in the African slave trade abolished the practice hundreds of years ago and the United States officially ended it in 1865, Arab countries continued the trade with majority ending it late in the 20th century. In Malawi, slavery was officially criminalized in 2007 with mentions of some Arab countries currently being involved albeit clandestinely.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – While the Portuguese (from 1441) are usually cited as being the first to engage in the transatlantic slave trade, most major European maritime empires participated including Spain (from 1479); Great Britain (from 1562), North America (from 1619); Holland (from 1625); France (from 1642); Sweden (from 1647); and Denmark (from 1697). Sweden and Denmark, even you Scandinavian Countries? Seriously? For real? sure? And you have kept quite. The silence is too loud over this issue.
Over the years, global focus and discourse on slavery has concentrated on the Trans-Atlantic trade that featured the Americas and European merchants. Between 1441 to 1888 the transatlantic slave trade initiated a forced migration of approximately 12 million people from the Continent of Africa to European colonies in the Caribbean Islands, in Central and South America, and in North America. These early trade patterns evolved into a larger system of trade often times referred to as the “triangular trade” referring to the three legs of the trade system. The first leg was from Europe to Africa where goods were exchanged for slaves. The second or middle leg of the trade was the transportation of slaves to the Americas. The third leg of the trade was the transportation of goods from the Americas back to Europe. The most representative of the systematic and brutal exchange of human being was the “Middle Passage”, the second leg of the triangular trade in which thousands of Africans were forced into the hulls and storage of ships for the nightmarish voyage to the “New World.” Many are aware that the slaves were kept under inhuman conditions including being branded with hot irons and restrained with chains or shackles. Very Sad. Who does that to a fellow human being? The area had little or no ventilation (CAN’T Breathe type of suffocation) and negligible resources for the removal of human waste. According to the slave Equiano, “The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died. “(quoted in Africans in America, Part 1).
Others were thrown overboard in the Ocean either dead or alive. Nowhere in the annals of history has a people experienced such a long and traumatic ordeal as Africans during the Atlantic Slave Trade. Over the nearly four centuries of the slave trade, which continued until the end of the Civil War in America, millions of African men, women, and children were savagely torn from their homeland, herded onto ships, and dispersed all over the so-called New World. It is guesstimated that between thirty and sixty million Africans were subjected to this horrendous triangular trade system and only one third of those people survived.
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation, and on January 1, 1863, he made it official that “slaves within any State, or designated part of a State…in rebellion,…shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Though the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t officially end all slavery in America, that happened with the passage of the 13th Amendment after the Civil War’s end in 1865. Some 186,000 black soldiers joined the Union Army, and about 38,000 lost their lives. Black Africans have been sacrificing their lives for long.
Scramble for Africa – End Slavery and intensify colonialism by scrambling for Africa. The Berlin Conference occurred primarily due to Germany’s entry into the colonial sphere. Previously, Britain, France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal had largely occupied the African continent without conflict amongst themselves. European Countries were already in Africa exploiting Natural and Human resources including Slave Trade.
Germany’s rise to power made the other European leaders nervous and eager to establish ground rules. So, in 1884, the Berlin Conference was convened to discuss African colonization, with the aim of setting up international guidelines for making claims to African land to avoid conflict between European powers. The Berlin Conference was a series of meetings held in 1884 and 1885 with the goal of dividing the continent of Africa between the European powers. As countries scrambled to establish colonies on the continent, the heads of state wanted to head off any potential conflicts between them over the African territory which was not theirs. Among the rules created by the Berlin Conference were the establishment of a free trade zone in the Congo, the requirement that a country had to occupy and administer its colonies instead of simply claiming land in absentia and the requirement that a country must notify the other signatories before establishing a coastal colony in Africa. The conference gave no consideration to the self-determination of the African people, but it did include a token amendment to ban slavery in Africa in an attempt to legitimize the conference and gain public support.
As a direct result of the Berlin Conference, the colonization of Africa increased in speed and scope. By 1902, approximately 90 percent of the continent was under direct European control. Scramble for Africa. Another sad episode for the African Race. Missionaries had also arrived in Africa and said nothing or little against Colonialism or against Slavery earlier on in their own Countries.
Colonialism in Africa – The policy of a country seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonization, colonizers may impose their religion, economics, and other cultural practices on indigenous peoples which Europeans did. The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. Equally a very bad practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another, installing a settlement of its people on foreign land, establishes political control over the other land for economic benefits of the more powerful country.
In practice, a country conquers and rules over other regions, exploiting the resources of the conquered country for the benefit of the conqueror, establishing territorial dominion over a colony by an outside political power.
Apartheid – As if that is not enough for the Africans, apartheid creeps in. Boers. Racial segregation had long existed in white minority-governed South Africa, but the practice was extended under the government led by the National Party (1948–1994), and the party named its racial segregation policies apartheid in Afrikaans: “Apartness”. Yet another dark era. Nelson Mandela and de Klerk led efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid, which resulted in the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the African National Congress (ANC) to victory and became president after his 27 solid years of Incarceration. Robben Island. Tesana. Not Things!
Neocolonialism – The control of less-developed countries by developed countries through indirect means. This is widely used to refer to a form of global power in which transnational corporations and global and multilateral institutions combine to perpetuate colonial forms of exploitation of developing countries. Neocolonialism has been broadly understood as that which enables capitalist powers (both nations and corporations) to dominate subject nations through the operations of international capitalism rather than by means of direct rule. The use of economic, political, cultural, or other pressures to control or influence other countries, especially former dependencies. That practice of using capitalism, globalization, cultural imperialism, and conditional aid to influence a developing country instead of the previous colonial methods of direct military control or indirect political control.
What next for Africa? – Imperialism – The policy or action by which one country forcefully gains and keeps control of another country or territory. Most often, countries use military means to gain economic and political control in other countries. There is a scramble for Military Bases by the “Big Boys” on the African Continent. And they are now dotted everywhere in Africa. Africa Freedom Day – “is coming tomorrow” from a Song in SARAFINA – South African Movie featuring Caryn Elaine Johnson, known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg. 1960 was proclaimed “The Year of Africa”. On May 25, 1963, 31 African leaders convened a summit meeting to found the Organization of African Unity (OAU). They renamed Africa Freedom Day as “African Liberation Day” and changed its date to May 25. Thirty-eight (38) years after its formation, the OAU evolved into the African Union (AU) on May 25, 2001. Africa Day continues to be celebrated both in Africa and around the world.
Not forgetting the heinous atrocities, crimes against humanity committed from 1885 to 1908 in the Congo Free State (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo) which, at the time, was a colony under the personal rule of King Leopold II of the Belgians. These atrocities were particularly associated with the labour policies used to collect natural rubber for export. Together with epidemic disease, famine, and a falling birth rate caused by these disruptions, the atrocities contributed to a sharp decline in the Congolese population. The magnitude of the population fall over the period is disputed, with modern estimates ranging from 10 million to 15 million deaths.
With the recent unfolding events, Africans have been crying for a long time. The Grand Creator will one day graciously hear the cries and lamentations of his own Children – the Black Africans and many of African descendants – IT IS A MATTER OF WHEN, NOT IF. Stay Safe and be blessed.