Greed and exploitation led to Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Odotei
Professor Irene Odotei, President of the Historical Society of Ghana, on Friday said greed and exploitation could have led to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
She stressed that for people to have conceived the idea of selling human beings as slaves they must have seen others as less human beings than the others and said, “the slave trade is therefore a problem for the world”.
Professor Odotei expressed these concerns when she launched this year's Emancipation Day celebration which would be climaxed on August 1, 2008.
The occasion was also used to launch a book on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade titled: “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Landmarks, Legacies and Expectations.”
Prof. Odotei said factors that led to the slave trade were no different from the number of ethnic group disparities in the country and the world at large which made some people see their ethnic groups as superior to others and some people in some countries see themselves more important than others.
She condemned greed and exploitation these days and pointed out that those were the very factors that might have led to the abominable Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
She asked: “Why would a black person who finds himself in the midst of white people travelling to perhaps Europe or America be isolated for questioning at Immigration because perhaps a black person is not supposed to be qualified to attend workshops and other academic programmes in Europe or America?”
Prof. Odotei said emancipation was an on-going process and until we achieved a situation where human beings found themselves to be equal and thus free to operate we must continue to repeat the message of emancipation.
Mrs. Oboshie Sai-Cofie, Minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations, pledged government's commitment to celebrate Emancipation Day.
She said government had a special interest in all matters relating to the African Diaspora hence her ministry's policy objective to encourage the development of special links that bound Africans living in the homeland and those in the Diaspora.
Ghana, she said, was a major exit point for slaves on the West Coast of Africa during the slave trade hence the claim to position the country as a gateway for those in the Diaspora.
The Tourism Minister said the government was committed to the complete eradication of child labour and child trafficking.
“Within Ghana, there has been intensive education on the menace of forced labour and movement of people. Government has also implemented awareness-creation programmes about some cultural practices that go against the freedom of individuals in Ghana.”
Commenting on the book: “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Landmarks, Legacies and Expectations,” the Minister said the full story of the slave trade remained untold and expressed the belief that the book would attract global attention and interest because of its bold attempt to close a yawning gap.
The book written by a team from the UNESCO Slave Route Project is also to encourage research in the area of history in order to bring out in full what actually happened during the slave trade era.
Prof. James Anquandah, Chairman of the National Slave Route Project Committee, said the book was to provide literature for schools and the general public interested to know about the slave trade.
He noted that until recently, there was no significant literature on the slave trade.
Prof. George Hagan, Chairman of the National Commission on Culture who reviewed the book, said much would have been lost if Ghana decided not to uncover the history of the slave trade.
Emancipation Day is celebrated annually to commemorate the final abolition of slavery in the British colonies.
This year's celebration would include a wreath laying ceremony to honour three Pan-Africanists – Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, W.E.B Du Bois and George Padmore and there would also be a re-enactment of the crossing of the River Pra at Assin Praso where captured slaves had their last bath. There would also be durbars to be held at selected regions to re-trace the slave route.
The celebration would be climaxed on midnight of August 1, where people of African descent would meet at the Cape Coast Castle for a reverential night.