Africans Mull Citizenship For Slave Kin

Dulue Mbachu, AP, July 20, 2006

Abuja, Nigeria—African and black American leaders meeting this week debated an unusual proposal to spur investment and interest in the continent—securing African citizenship for American descendants of Africans taken away as slaves.

The idea came out of a summit bringing African governments and the U.S. private sector together in search of partnerships to end Africa’s poverty. Presidents from 12 African countries attended the four-day conference, along with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

“Just as the people of different races in America have a place they call home, I believe we should have a place we call our ancestral home,” said Hope Masters, daughter of the U.S. civil rights campaigner for whom the Leon Sullivan Summit is named.

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“Dual citizenship will start the process of mutual and spiritual reconciliation of differences between the two continents that came as a result of slavery,” he said. “If we can feel like we really belong, we’ll feel more joyful about participating.”

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One possibility is granting continent-wide citizenship to slave descendants through the African Union, Archer said. Another is to work for citizenship of blocs of countries through regional organizations. It was unclear what rights would be granted under those scenarios.

A third proposal would have countries grant citizenship independently to those who seek it.

Masters said the proposal will be further developed before the next summit in 2008. She said African leaders support the concept, noting that Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has urged black Americans “to see Africa as your home.”

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