Activists Say Blair’s Slavery Sorrow Not Enough

Reuters, Nov 27, 2006

A black rights organisation said on Monday Prime Minister Tony Blair’s declaration of “deep sorrow” for Britain’s role in the slave trade did not go far enough and failed to address the issue of compensation.

Blair said the bicentenary of the trade’s abolition next year offered the opportunity to condemn Britain’s past involvement in slavery.

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“Blair’s article is taking a backward step from Britain’s official position in 1807 when it abolished the trade and expressed regret for what had happened,” said Kofi Mawuli Klu of rights group Rendezvous of Victory.

“This has heightened feelings among people in the African community. We want an apology of substance that addresses the demands for African reparations,” he added.

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Mawuli Klu said Blair should back up his words with measures such as tackling the alienation of black youth in Britain’s education system and slammed government initiatives to eradicate poverty in Africa for failing to deliver.

Rendezvous of Victory has also demanded a government commission to address the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism for black people.

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Anti-Slavery International’s position on reparations recommends compulsory education on the history of the trade in UK schools.

It says states that benefited economically from the trade should write off the debts of poor countries damaged by slavery and proposes a human rights fund for low-income communities made up of the descendants of slaves.

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Commemorations are planned for March next year to mark the 1807 Slave Trade Act when Britain was the first major slave trafficking nation to outlaw the trade.

Between 10 million and 28 million Africans were shipped in appalling conditions to the Americas and sold into slavery between 1450 and the early 19th century.

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