By Satish Sekar in Accra © Satish Sekar (September 26th 2017)
The Origins of Evil
Before the legalisation of the slave trade ‘pirates’ indulged in it. At first they bartered, but soon the European ‘traders’ wanted more in return for their weapons – human slaves. African tribes had a stark choice enslave or be enslaved. Without the ‘sophisticated’ weapons tribal leaders knew other tribes would do the deal that meant slavery for them.
The institution had changed. Slavery to Europeans was far more brutal. Their slaves were not ‘servants’ they were human commodities to be used and abused as their ‘masters’ saw fit. So while Africans were ‘complicit’ what choice did they have?
Visiting the castles (Cape Coast and Elmina) is sobering. Being in the cells even for minutes or seconds is uncomfortable. Imagine being there for days, weeks or months, in rank disease-infested conditions – no exercise or sunlight, and then add the sadistic cruelty to it. It’s horrendous just thinking about it. But Ghanaians can visit these historic sites free. They tend not to. Many wait outside looking to exploit visitors rather than learn their own history.
And that extends to the River Assin Fosu?
Never heard of it? It is the place the captured slaves, marched from the north of the country or even nearby countries have their last bath before entering the slave fortresses of Elmina or Cape Coast Castles, or the forts that pock-mark Ghana’a Atlantic coastline. The precise number of victims of this inhuman trade will never be known.
I took friends to Assin Fosu. Rather than pay a paltry amount for admission – I paid the taxi fare all the way there and to Accra – they preferred to wait outside and save themselves a few Cedis on top of the fares I had already saved them. Sadly this attitude is typical. Another wanted to be paid for his time to learn his own history. It typifies the problems.
Testament of Cruelty
The hypocrisy is nauseating. Westerners object to reparations. How odd they say nothing of an uncomfortable fact. Compensation has been paid for slavery on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but never to the slaves or their descendants. Compensation or reparations for slavery has only been paid to former slave-owners. They and their descendants, including former British Prime Minister David Cameron benefited from it yet have the chutzpah to oppose reparations for the descendants of victims of one of the worst crimes against humanity ever.
The pirates were soon out of the equation as the slave trade became official. Colonialists and their minions took over and that led to the castles becoming holding point gaols. But after the trade was outlawed the pirates returned. Occasionally British ships enforced the abolition of the trade. Excavations showed what had happened in these castles, a lasting testament to man’s cruelty to man.