François Hollande came to Pointe-à-Pitre, May 10, to inaugurate the Memorial ACTe, the Caribbean Centre of Expression and Memory of Slavery & the Slave Trade. An opportunity for some Caribbean artists, including Joëlle Ursull, Florence Naprix, Ali Angel, Tatiana Miath, Gladys Cabarrus, Davis Erauss The Lyricist to call for the implementation of a reparations policy.-Mediapart
On 10th May, national day of remembrance of slavery, slave trade and their abolition, François Hollande will be in Guadeloupe to inaugurate the Memorial ACTe. But the positions of the President of the Republic in relation to slavery make his coming visit problematic.
On 10 May 2013, it will be recalled, quoting and distorting the thinking of Aimé Césaire
, he evoked the "impossibility of reparations," brushing aside with his hand that fundamental requirement of justice. Yet after World War II, France itself demanded - and obtained - reparations that Germany paid until 2014*. France is therefore not against reparations. When she has to pay, she is against, but when it's a matter of receiving, she is for.
In France, in terms of colonization, there have been reparations, but always for... the criminals. Reparations were imposed on Haitians from 1825 to 1946, for the benefit of the Caisse des Dépôts, the slavers and the French Treasury. Reparations were made in 1849 to former slavers in Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana and Reunion. Reparations were made according to the law of 23 February 2005 to former settlers from Algeria, and even former terrorists belonging to the OAS. In short, when it comes to slavery and colonization, we can compensate the guilty, but not the victims. This means in fact that the victims are not really victims, and that the crime is not really a crime. This is how we play the game of "negationism".
Memorial of the Slave Trade, Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania
Photo Dougie Cameron
The slave trade is one of the phenomena that has caused the most disruption to humanity: demographic, political, economic, social, and cultural upheaval, across several continents. Between 11 and 17 million people were deported from Africa, not to mention all those, probably more numerous, who were murdered on the spot while trying to protect their families and their relatives. A crime against humanity is not something that happens on Saturday night, which we would rebound from on Monday morning, like a bad cold, when going into work. This is a major trauma, leaving deep and lasting traces, for several generations. Even today, from Alaska to Patagonia, we see the situation of the indigenous peoples of America, although the genocides they have suffered reach further back in time than the slave trade.
Among the most visible consequences of colonial slavery is endemic poverty and insecurity. It is no wonder that the descendants of slaves are generally poorer than the descendants of slave-owners. One group has left their descendants accumulated wealth from generation to generation, the others could leave their children only accumulated misery from generation to generation. Another consequence of this crime, is negrophobic racism. The simian comparisons and bananas thrown at Justice Minister Christiane Taubira testify to the persistence of the colonial and racist imagination in France today- without speaking of the invisible discrimination suffered by millions of anonymous people every day.
Monument "to end slavery" in honour of the 1795 revolt of slaves, led by Tula (executed Oct. 3, 1795),
South Coast, Curação (Netherlands Antilles)
The state itself remains very ambiguous. It voted for the Taubira law, certainly, but differed with the parliamentary Law Commission on the essential amendment for reparations. With Guadeloupian money, the state continues to maintain the grave of Richepanse
, the very one who, sent by Napoleon, massacred Delgrès
and other freedom fighters to restore slavery. A monument was built in Guadeloupe to the glory of Lord de L'Olive
, the colonel who, in 1635, launched the colonial project in Guadeloupe and massacred Caribbeans. The state still protects the old masters, indemnified in 1849, and refuses to recognize as such the massacres of 1910, 1925, 1931, 1952, 1967, 1985, not to mention the popular uprising of 2009, which was brutally repressed.
Mr Hollande, increasingly, ventures on dangerous ground, "the Holocaust,”
he said recently, “was the greatest crime ever committed
". That position is both historically false, and politically dangerous, because it creates hierarchies between citizens. And in fact, nobody understands how the State which rightly implemented the Civis
(compensation board for victims of spoliation related to World War II) can simultaneously assert that nothing can be done for the victims of slavery, while paying "reparations" for the perpetrators of slavery and colonization.
By refusing any reparational logic, François Hollande only protects those (starting with the State itself) that have benefited from slavery. Under these conditions, how can we inaugurate the Memorial ACTe
, in memory of the victims, while protecting the criminals? Is not this a particularly serious form of doublespeak? When it comes to crimes against humanity, can we afford such ambivalence?
Memorial to Slavery Cape 110, Anse Caffard, Martinique 1998
Today, in any event, the debate has been launched. Prolonging the work of Martin Luther King
, Malcolm X
, Aimé Cesaire, Frantz Fanon
, Desmond Tutu
, South African archbishop with a Nobel Peace Prize, Wole Soyinka
, the Nigerian writer with a Nobel Prize for literature, associations are increasingly mobilizing, and taking these issues to court. Unanimously, the Heads of State of CARICOM have sought compensation from former colonial powers, presenting a 10-point plan (apologies, programmes for education, culture, health, debt cancellation, etc.). New Commissions for reparations were recently created in the United States and Europe. The African Union is also working on the subject.
In short, the entire world repeats: there is no justice without reparations - that is a universal principle. At a time when Mr Hollande claims to pay tribute to the victims of slavery, we first ask him to give them justice. To commemorate, that's good. To repair is better. To refuse reparations, would be in fact to protect the authors and beneficiaries of this crime, and to act as an accomplice. In May 2012, Jean-Marc Ayrault, then Prime Minister, had promised to implement "a policy of compensation." This is why we ask the President to implement this policy, without which any commemoration is only a vain and hypocritical charade.
We demand reparations and compensation for the black people. In the name of peace, equality, respect and honour.
Read on the same topic National/International Reparations Summit in New York, April 2015
After the Franco-Prussian War, according to conditions of Treaty of Frankfurt (May 10, 1871), France was obliged to pay a war indemnity of 5 billion gold francs in 5 years. German troops remained in parts of France until the last instalment of the indemnity was paid in September 1873, ahead of schedule.
After World War I, Germany agreed to pay reparations of 132 billion gold marks to the Triple Entente in the Treaty of Versailles, payments which were suspended before World War II by Adolf Hitler. The amount of reparations was later reduced by the Agreement on German External Debts in 1953. After another pause pending the reunification of Germany, the last instalment of these reparations was paid on 3 October 2010.
German reparations to France for World War II were with some concessions paid until 2014.