Battle for reparations must continue, ambassadors say

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By Carlena Knight

The fight for slavery reparations is not a waste of time, ambassadors told Observer yesterday.

The issue has been at the forefront of debate in recent times as many believe seeking reparatory justice will not help to mend systematic and racial barriers implemented many years ago, while others believe the move is vital in order for healing to happen.

Speaking in recognition of Africa Liberation Day which was marked on Tuesday, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Aubrey Webson is one who believes the crusade is needed.

He admits that, although there have been talks on the topic by some countries, it is not being focused upon heavily by the UN itself.

Because of this hesitancy, Webson revealed a resolution is now being worked on to take the discussion to the UN.

“No, I do not think they are wasting time but in terms of getting traction in the United Nations system itself, it’s slow to get off the ground. In fact, we are at this very moment debating to form a resolution on a permanent African forum which would then lead into discussions of reparations,” Webson explained.

“Antigua and Barbuda have been tasked to lead some of the Caribbean discussion on reparation towards the UN. We are hoping to bring a resolution forward on that.

“It will get a lot of fight and kickback but whether it will come forward, we have no doubt it will do so but it will take time.”

Ambassador Franklyn ‘King Frank-I’ Francis also weighed in on the discussion and agreed that reparations are necessary.

He says that the process, despite it possibly taking a long time, will eventually reap benefits.

“There have been some discussions with the European Union and European countries and also … the many institutions, the church, business companies, banks and even universities who benefitted in the Caribbean here and we are seeing there is some take-up on that.

“I am hopeful that these incremental activities will be happening as we talk and, as we see the years coming up, but I am still thinking that the process has begun and we will see it gaining more momentum,” Francis said.

In recent times, many countries have been demanding some form of reparation from other governments, schools or even churches which benefitted from the hardship of slaves.

Just this week in the US, a bill was passed to make it easier for survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to seek reparations, while in Germany a reconciliation agreement between its government and Namibia is nearing completion.

In 2019, Prime Minister Gaston Browne wrote to Harvard University also demanding reparations, saying the educational institution was built on the “blood, sweat and tears” of the twin island nation’s people.

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