Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

African slavery apology 'needed'

Sketch of Congolese slave traders
Many Africans were involved in the slave trade

Traditional African rulers should apologise for the role they played in the slave trade, a Nigerian rights group has said in a letter to chiefs.

"We cannot continue to blame the white men, as Africans particularly the traditional rulers, are not blameless," said the Civil Rights Congress.

The letter said some collaborated or actively sold off their subjects.

The group said it was time for African leaders to copy the US and the UK who have already said they were sorry.

It urged Nigeria's traditional rulers to apologise on behalf of their forefathers and "put a final seal to the history of slave trade", AFP news agency reports.


Civil Rights Congress president Shehu Sani says they are calling for this apology because traditional rulers are seeking inclusion in the forthcoming constitutional amendment in Nigeria.

"We felt that for them to have the moral standing to be part of our constitutional arrangement there are some historical issues for them to address," he told the BBC World Service.

"One part of which is the involvement of their institutions in the slave trade."

He said that on behalf of the buyers of slaves, the ancestors of these traditional rulers "raided communities and kidnapped people, shipping them away across the Sahara or across the Atlantic".

Millions of Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas over a period of about 450 years from the middle of the 15th Century.

More than a million people are thought to have died while in transit across the so-called "middle passage" of the Atlantic, due to the inhuman conditions aboard the slave ships and brutal suppression of any resistance.

Many slaves captured from the African interior died on the long journey to the coast.

Do you think traditional leaders should apologise for the slave trade? How complicit do you think African rulers were at the time?

Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

Even though the children aren't really responsible for the crimes of their fathers, there is a healing aspect in repentance and forgiveness. For even the crimes of our fathers affects the lives of their children's children. Those who repent of wrongs done and those who forgive those wrongs find renewal and health which may change the course of a life or of a nation.
Njinja, Yaounde, Cameroun

I think even if they apologize what they have done at the past, it doesn't have meaning, it doesn't change things. If the slavery stopped now we faced another one "the mental slavery" and the worst thing is that our leaders don't take lesson from the past and still provoke civil wars. We are tired of wars. as my above friend said lets move forward and forget about the past, I hope one day hearing "the united states of Africa" even if not me my children or my little children will hear this.
Moktar, Djibouti

well it true i agree with you traditional ruler should apologise to African also but lets not forget the Arab who came first they have not yet apologise to Africa for their slavery the did with caravan through the Sahara desert. let me ask one question are these African politicians not enslaving their children again in the name of corruption. i think we should examine what is going on in our society today because for people like us who come to Europe through the Mediterranean sea and we live in no document the people should examine this fact because our so call government is enslaving us again thanks
oghogho elvis smith robson, lyon france

If our traditional leaders should apologise for selling their subjects into slavery, we should also ask the question whether people living in the west coast of Africa are freemen in their respective countries. Sometimes I wish our fore fathers were all sold into slavery not that i am condoling the menace of the slave trade but rather in my opinion i see the 500 years old inhumane act perpetuated by the then rulers and their colonial counterpart as a blessing in disguise and the truth be said millions of us are still under the captivity of bad government, corrupt and irresponsible leaders that are still destroying many aspiration in Africa who is saying sorry to us.
Gabriel Okodoa, Greater Manchester

The era of slavery is over and no amount of apologies and what a view will salvage African the worst that has been done, and the so called traditional ruler that collided with the slave masters were no more. Why cant we have a group that will talk and demand apologies from our past and present leaders that has change the dream of Nigeria and African continent as whole, they have collided with some unknown elements to underdeveloped our continent, lead us to wrong path. The damage that was done during the era of slavery is less to what our corrupt leader have done. no African leader will leave office without been prosecution for corruption and mismanagement. i don't need apologies from the dead, i demand from our present for governing us badly.
fatai yussuff, belfast

there is no present without a past. the corruption of the 15th century on the african continent still lives with us. apology comes with an attitude change. if not, there is absolutely no need. we want a positive change in africa and starts with the traditional leaders. they must voice out the truth to these corrupt leaders all over africa.
vincent bodam, lagos, nigeria

True, they were culprits to this human tragedy, but the human right group better user their energy to free Nigerians from political corruptions that has plunged the nation back to 1000 years of less development. Nigeria need EMERGENCY surgery, no kidding
M Imarhiagbe, ZH/Switzerland

There apologies at this time of an age is irrelevant, rather more emphasis should be focused on how meaningful development can be achieved in Africa. I think the organisation should focus on ills ravaging the continent such as corruption, famine, HIV/AIDS, poor management of resources and the likes. The apologies from US and UK has done us no good; what has been done has been done..lets move forward
Adewole M., Coventry, United Kingdom

This is certainly, YES in capital letters. African traditional leaders "rulers" should all stand before their very common poor affected African people to confess and religiously apologise for the cruel act of trans-Sahara slave trade which led to the traumatic and bad leadership portrait on their ruled masses which brought about a present day fail African Nation.
Suleiman - Isa, Adamu, Abuja, Nigeria

I think it is proper for everyone involved to tender an apology. There was a national repentance prayer in Abuja on the eve of Nigeria's 49th anniversary on the 30th of September 2009. The prayers started from repentance about slave trade to today's misgovernance. The vice president was in attendance and there were representatives of the kings. The representatives of the traditional rulers from the coastal areas tendered an apology for their role in slave trade just as General Gowon did on the same night for the actions of the nation during the civil war. I don't think the traditional rulers are against this and I think it is the right way to go but it should not excuse the western nations from what they did as well. There are more than enough guilty parties.
Debola Ajagunna, Houston USA

It's an interesting call, and the issue has been addressed in West Africa by reputable historians such as Adu Boahene, and documented in the UNESCO History of Africa series. What happened was a form of complicity between slavers and traditional rulers who traded defeated war captives for guns and powder so they could continue to expand their states at the expense of their neighbours. But there is another class of people whose complicity is often overlooked, and that is the cynical gun manufacturers -- like Samuel Galton Jnr of Birmingham who made cheap unproved muskets specially for this trade.
Conrad Taylor, London, UK

I think this is a positive stance to take. Especially the part about putting a final seal on it. These people have to be able to say that they are at peace with the past. It is the only way to look positively to the future. Finally it should be kept in mind that commercial interests (like getting the cheapest labour possibly) has been a thorn in civilizations side whenever it has not been held up to proper moral standards. Of course this includes the current issue of sustainability. I think there is a lesson to learn here from history. On some matters humanity simply cannot turn a blind eye.
The Trutherizer

Should traditional leaders apologise for the slave trade? Absolutely! Let's put this in perspective here. According to historic accounts, the Europeans slave Traders did not actually forcibly round up the merchandise. Africans delivered Africans into slavery. The Europeans just like with colonial rule, where able to persuade the traditional rulers to part with their fellow Africans with smiles on their faces and monies in their pockets. In the defence of Traditional Rulers, they had no idea of the brutal inhuman treatment to befall their fellowmen. They probably did not fathom that millions will perish even before the whips started cracking on the shores of the American continent. But I feel it is important that we as Africans do not absolve ourselves completely of blame in what can only be described as one of the worse atrocities that that the world has ever seen.
O. Ayeni, Edgware, Middlesex , UK

African leaders were the biggest culprits of the crime. In fact, I estimate that up to 80% of slaves were procure and sold by other Africans for things like whisky and rum. Denying this fact only means it will and is happening again albeit with a different face. How many times have we heard demagogues blame colonialism and foreign powers for what is wrong when it is our own people causing suffering. Its sad that some of these criminals are lionised in history books as great kings when in fact their wealth was based on the blood of many. Unless we are honest to ourselves nothing will change.
mustafa, glasgow scotlannd

I don't agree. Most of African leaders who participated in the act were either covertly or overtly forced by the white slave maters....the case of Oba of Benin is a good example. When he refused to trade his kinsmen for mirrors and hats....he was dethroned and beheaded to serve as deterrent to others. How could you blindfold someone and yet accuse him of not being able to see?
Malcolm, Ibadan Nigeria

Indeed African traditional Leaders should apologise, and even build a monument honouring the victims of Slave Trade at each region where the slaves were put on board. The evil that many traditional leaders perpetuated in those days continues today. There are still tragic collusion of local leaders with rapacious multinational companies in the devastation and exploitation of African natural resources. A practical example of this is the imbroglio in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. The evil in some of the traditional leaders has been transferred to the modern Nigerian leaders, ad that is why many of them are into corruption. The traditional leaders still wield enormous enormous power, and as a result are are granted series of contracts in various fields in which they are not competent, leaving their responsibilities to pursue other forms of wealth. The traditional larders are indeed insatiable. While there is still the need to have them in the society, they should be more productive, rather than being parasites.
John OYEWOLE, Milan, Italy

The was a debate In my Final year BA degree at the University of the Gambia. This is doubt The African Rulers at the time of slavery and Slave bore a lot of responsibility to their fellow Africans for Betraying them and selling them as slaves. The great grand children of those rulers should apologized for the bad deeds of their parents. They should even pay reparation to their victims' children if it can be arranged. Thank you for bringing this topic.
Alhagie Bah, The Gambia

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