February 19, 2005

Ex-president demands apologies for slavery

Freed from the burdens of office, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano denounced the European powers that colonised Africa for their failure to offer any formal apologies for the atrocities of the slave trade. He was speaking in the northern Portuguese city of Braga, immediately after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Minho. He took advantage of the ceremony, which occurred in the presence of Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, to demand that the countries that colonised Africa, Portugal included, "should make an official apology for their use of slave labour".
Chissano's formal lecture on receiving the doctorate was entitled "globalisation and its impact on countries such as Mozambique". It dealt with the creation of "peripheral economies", a process which "began with colonial expansion as from the 15th century, and resulted in the imposition of a new international division of labour, in which the economies of the colonised countries were turned into mere producers of raw materials and consumers of manufactured goods". Stressing how slavery was used "to create the major economic powers of today",
Chissano noted "many countries, including Portugal are still, even today, enjoying the fruits of slave labour". In Africa, unequal trading relations began with the slave trade "first practiced by the Arabs, and later by the Europeans". For three centuries, he pointed out, "Africa functioned as a huge reservoir of labour for the world economy. According to some estimates this miserable trade affected more than 50 million people, most of them young and economically active". Apart from apologising for slavery, Chissano wanted to see the former colonial powers help countries such as Mozambique create economies that are "directed inwards". This idea that African economies should develop their domestic markets is heretical: the IMF/World Bank paradigm remains one of developing countries competing amongst themselves to export the most. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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