Closer ties with Africa among goals for newly appointed reparations ambassador

Dorbrene O’Marde was formally appointed on Monday
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By Carlena Knight

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Increased educational drives, stronger diplomatic ties with Africa and intensifying international pressure against Europe are some of the key areas newly appointed Reparations Ambassador Dorbrene O’Marde says he will be focusing on.

Speaking on the Observer AM show on Tuesday, the ambassador said nothing has changed in his long fight for slavery reparations for the nation and this new appointment will only strengthen his efforts. 

“The work basically for us is deepening our own understanding. You know the saying, you educate at home and fight abroad? So, for us, at home it is essentially education.

“The fight abroad comes from the international collaborations that we can generate to make Europe be so ashamed of its history that it is prepared to sit at the table and have decent discussions with us,” O’Marde said.

O’Marde, who is the Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission and the Vice-Chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, was appointed as ambassador plenipotentiary on Monday. That means he has official power to act on the country’s behalf; he will be responsible for the country’s Reparation Justice Programme.

O’Marde was first appointed as Ambassador at Large in 2017 and reappointed in 2020.

He is also an author and known for his illustrious career in culture, history, theatre and music throughout the Caribbean.

  Antigua and Barbuda is one of eight Caricom territories that have established reparation commissions following a 2013 decision by Caricom heads of government to establish the Caricom Reparations Commission under the chairmanship of Dr Hilary Beckles.

Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago are the other Caribbean territories.

Where seeking reparations from African tribes who played a part in the slave trade is concerned, O’Marde is of the opinion that it should not even be considered, as the fault still lies solely with the Europeans.

“This is what that argument attempts to do. It attempts to ignore the fact the trade was planned, financed, executed by Europe, and whether there was a number of collaborators on the African continent does not make the crime an African crime. It is a European crime.

“Europeans bought the boats. They employed the sailors. They moved into the African continent with guns and they kidnapped and conquered and managed to force African people to collaborate with them in the trade,” O’Marde said.

He admits that there were some Africans who played a role in the trade movement but there should not be a misconception on whom the responsibility should truly be placed upon.

“I am not in any way suggesting that there were not Africans who went into the trade essentially to make money; we have those people all around the place who saw opportunities in it but, clearly, it does not make the crime an African crime and I think it is on that basis that we must examine this.

“Therefore, any concept, any talk of reparations from Africa is really a non-starter,” O’Marde stated.

He added that the Caricom Reparations Commission would be hosting a forum to address the issues.

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