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01.08.2004 General News

Myth surrounding slave trade broken

By GNA

Salaga, (N/R), July 31, GNA - Some Africans in the Diaspora said on Friday that the myth surrounding the Atlantic Slave Trade had been broken and things made clear to them, when they toured slave trade sites in Salaga in the East Gonja District. The tour which form part of activities marking this year's Emancipation Day took them to a slave bathing place (Wankanbayi) along a stream in the North-eastern part of Salaga where the slaves dug more than one hundred wells from which they drew water for bathing before they were sent to slave markets.

An elder of the Kpembe Traditional Council conducted the tourists round the sites and briefed them on the history about the attractions. They were taken to the slave cemetery, Rafi Angulu, which means the vulture's stream in Hausa language and located at the northwest of Salaga along the bank of a stream, where dead slaves were thrown away for vultures to feast on. Vultures were also present along the stream because they could always get unburied dead bodies of slaves to prey on.

The African Americans also visited a warehouse, where slaves were kept till they were finally transported to the coast for shipment to their destinations. Inside that warehouse is a museum where relics such as the shackles, chains and guns used in the slave trade were on display. The tour ended at the slave market, where the saw a baobab tree at the spot where an original one, under which, captured slaves were chained for sale that died in 19973 stood.

Mrs Maisie Howell, President of the Ghana /Caribbean Association, who said she was shocked at what she saw at the sites and called on Africans to tell their children about the inhuman treatment and sufferings meted out to slaves. She said if children were told the true stories about the slave trade, they would learn relevant lessons that could guard them against cooperating with other people to sell their people again.

Mrs Howell said: "It seemed like a myth to some of us when we were told how our ancestors were sold but it is now clear to me how they were sold when l visited Salaga".

The chiefs and people of the Kpembe Traditional Council organised a remembrance (Kanyigi) festival to commemorate the Day. The Kpembe wura, Alhaji Ibrahim Haruna Kibasibi, called on Africans in the Diaspora to apply their skills and knowledge for the development of the Africa. He gave the assurance that the Traditional Council would release land to African-Americans who would like to invest in the area.

Mr Boniface Saddique, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City, who led a Government delegation to the festival, said the Salaga Slave Market was the largest in the whole of West Africa where slaves brought from other parts of the continent were sold. He said about 300,000 slaves who were brought to Salaga on daily basis were later taken to Cape Coast and other costal towns for shipment to the Western world.

Mr Saddique, who is also the Member of Parliament for Salaga, said the Government was working hard to help Africans in the Diaspora to know the true stories about the slave trade. He said the authorities would initiate a plan to be known as the Joseph Project to help Africans in the Diaspora to return home to invest while at the same time, assist in the teaching of the history of the slave trade.

The Minister said Ghana earned 500 million dollars from 600,000 tourists that visited the country last year, adding that the Government had released about one billion cedis for the development of a Receptive Centre and slave sites in Salaga to attract more tourists to the country. Mr Saddique said the Kpembe Traditional Council had released land around the site of the slave wells and bathing places to the Government for development into tourist attractions.

Mr Charles Bintim, Deputy Northern Regional Minister, noted that poverty and illiteracy constituted slavery, and called on individuals and organisations to help promote education and investment in the area. Two wreaths were laid at the slaves' cemetery in memory of slaves who died at Salaga and some of the Africans in Diaspora were made to undergo some rites by Kpembewura to signify their homecoming. However, some people the GNA spoke to at Salaga said much was said about the Atlantic Slave Trade but little was said about the Trans Saharan Slave Trade and urged historians to find out what had happened to slaves bought by the Arabs.

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