GNRC Chairman Arley Gill Attends 16th CODESRIA General Assembly

PR – “Deceptive’’ Emancipation Act of 1833

Delegates from Africa and other countries that met at a conference in Senegal, from December 4-8, were updated on the Caribbean’s struggle for reparations from Europe.

Reparations are a call for “repair for the damage caused by indigenous holocaust and indigenous genocide’’ and the Atlantic slave trade and slavery, said lawyer Arley Gill, who is chairman of the Grenada National Reparations Committee (GNRC).

Grenada, through the GNRC, is a member of the CARICOM Reparations Commission.

“The Social Sciences and ‘Pandemics’ in Africa’’ was the theme of the general assembly of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), which is commemorating the 50th anniversary of its founding.

Gill, an invited guest, participated in a panel discussion on the topic, “Legacies of the Other Pandemics: A Case for reparations’’.

CARICOM’s 10-point reparations plan, which begins with a demand for a “full, formal apology’’ for slavery, and includes such things as Caribbean debt cancellation, and funding for public health and education, starts with the first settlers of the Caribbean, who were “exterminated’’ by “European invaders who took their lands’’, Gill told the assembly.

Subsequently, he said, Europeans kidnapped and traded in Africans, denying them their “human identity’’, with the black body being “considered to be property’’.

Britain’s Emancipation Act of 1833 was “the most deceptive piece of legislation passed by the British parliament. Because, what it did was one, to officially recognize enslaved Africans as non-humans and to reaffirm their legal status as property,’’ Gill said.

“Second, property compensation was paid, as a form of financial reparations, to enslavers; it also excluded any, and all forms of reparations, to the emancipated; and four, the act was used to sustain the economic and social structures of domination by the white elite.’’

What happened in 1833 was Britain making “a valuation of the loss of property to the enslavers; they estimated that it will be a loss to the enslavers at around 47 million £. What did they do? They then took a loan of 20 million £ from Rothschild Bank to pay the enslavers,’’ Gill explained.

“That loan, they only finished paying in the year 2015. So, for those persons who think that when we speak of reparations we’re speaking about centuries-old issues, we’re not. We’re talking about the loan that the British took to pay the enslavers,’’ he added.

“The other 27 million £, they concocted and designed a program called the apprenticeship period, which originally was for 10 years. That apprenticeship period was basically forced labour of the formerly enslaved, giving free labour to their former slave owners; contributing to paying the enslavers for their freedom, in a real sense and a real manner of speaking.’’

Gill, who has returned to Grenada, urged African Union countries and citizens – including scholars and university students – to further promote the cause of reparations and make it part of the agenda.

“We need to engage our young people and the media also must bring it alive,’’ said Gill, who visited Gorée Island and the “Door of No Return’’ during the conference.

Gorée Island, just off the coast of Senegal, is a former slave-trading centre, where adult male Senegalese were kept – often shackled – in a small space before European enslavers loaded them onto ships and transported them across the Atlantic to a life of chattel slavery for those who survived the journey on the ocean.