10 August 2002

Africa: I Don't Believe in Reparation - Obasanjo

Barbados — President Olusegun Obasanjo, Thursday, distanced himself for the popular clamour from reparation to African countries, whose fore bears were sold into slavery in the 17th century.

President Obasanjo made the declaration while responding to the request of "financial and moral support", by the Pan-African commission, which met with him in Barbados.

The commission had asked for support to enable it organise an international conference in Barbados between October 1-6 this year. The conference, the commission said, will among other things press for reparation from European countries for the inhuman slavery experience meted out to their forebears.

Barbados, a small carribean Island country is predominantly (95 per cent) populated by blacks of African descent. the pursuit for reparation was one of the foreign policy campaign thrust of the late chief M.K.O Abiola, in 1993.

But President Obasanjo while pledging to identify with the large goal of helping the commission to re-establish link with their African ancestry, noted that the campaign for reparation, is neither realistic nor practicable.

He explained that while African shipped away from their native ancestral land may be justified to ask for reparation, those (Africans) to ask for reparation, those (Africans) who are still domiciled in their lands have no business or basis to ask for reparation.

According to him, "we do not need reparation. our forebears were either participants, accomplices on silent watchers in the slave trade business. So we do not need to ask for reparation." He however explained that "for those Africans whose forebears were shipped across the atlantic like you (Barbadoans), yes, you may be justified in asking for reparation. But not those of us still on the other side of the Atlantic."

He pointed out further that the issue of reparation will raise several other complex scenarios that may be difficult to resolve.

President Obasanjo posed, for instance, a member of questions: "If they (the west) pay reparation, who will claim it. How will it be shared? Can the payment be a flat rate to all (victims)?", pointing out that, "those are some basic questions that we have to answer."

He explained further that the demand for reparation may trigger off a chain of world disquiet as several racial groups have suffered one form of injustice on the other from people of other races.

"if we press Europe to pay reparation, Europe will press the Jews to pay and the jews may also press the Romans to pay them, observing that the resultant confusion wil be endless and complex.

He told the commission, "we should take what is practicable and relevant and pursue it relentlessly."

The conference which is to be attended by over 100 Non-governmental Organistion (NGOs) in October is expected to cost $1 million. the commission which submitted a proposal to president Obasanjo on the conference, however failed to get a finacnail commitment from the Nigerian presidents.

At the reception for President Obasanjo and his entourage, Wednesday night, by Nigerians in Barbados, he had enjoined them to be "good ambasadors of Nigeria, stressing that "if you are good citizen here (Barbados) then you can be "good citizens of the world and also good citizens of Nigeira" adding that, "Nigeria will be judged and accessed through what you do here."

Nigeria has neither an embassy nor a high commission in Barbados. The Nigeiran high commissioenr in trinidad and Torbago Mrs Nne Furo Kurubo, oversees the affairs of Nigeirans in Barbados.

President Obasanjo urged them to contribute to the development of Nigeira, having been educated with Nigeiran resources. "You were educated with Nigerian resoruces. And now you are using your experience to develop other countries. I hope it is temporary, because you must begin to think of how you can use your experience, training and knowledge to develop your own country.

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