Chissano on ‘compensation’ from European powers

Speaking to Mozambican journalists who attended celebrations marking the seventh anniversary of the foundation of the African Union in the Libyan city of Sirte, Chissano said it was imperative that the former colonial powers should accept their historical responsibilities and help African nations to emerge from their current economic plight.

But reacting to Gaddafi’s demand for compensation, Chissano pointed out that it was impossible to come up with a figure: no monetary sums could pay for the damage inflicted on Africa during centuries of slavery and occupation. Those calling for compensation mention a figure of US$700 trillion , though how this has been calculated is far from clear.

Nonetheless, Chissano thought it a moral duty on the part of European countries to recognise that such crimes had been committed, and to help Africa heal the wounds they had left, so that the continent could regenerate and achieve the same levels of development as the nations that had benefited from enslaving and colonising it.

“I think that when Muammar Gaddafi talks of compensation, it’s just a manner of speaking, using what I regard as the force of expression to stress the imperative character of Europe’s duty to help us emerge from backwardness,” said Chissano. There was consensus, he added, that the main cause of Africa’s backwardness was “the slavery and colonialism to which we were subjected for centuries”.

There were plenty of examples of irreparable damage caused by European occupation, said Chissano, recalling a German speaker at a conference he had attended who had acknowledged that Germany, in the early 20th century, massacred 80,000 Hereros in what is now Namibia.

Facts such as this “show that you can’t simply point to bad governance and corruption as the only evils responsible for Africa’s backwardness.”

Many Europeans, he continued, were now well aware of the damage caused by their ancestors, and accepted a responsibility to assist Africa overcome its current situation. This was the case even at the level of the top leadership of the Group of Eight (G8) most developed nations, whose recent summits had regarded aid to Africa as an imperative and immediate issue.

As for the issue, again raised by Gaddafi, of abolishing the continent’s current borders and creating a “United States of Africa”, Chissano said that while he was certain that one day there would be “a united and indivisible African nation”, it was impossible to predict when this would happen or what sort of union it would be.

“That Africa will be one country with one government ‘ I am confident this will happen,” he said, “but don’t ask me what kind of country this will be, whether it will be a federation or something different, nor when it will come about.” ‘ Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique.

September 2006
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