Pursuing an African Agenda for Reparations for Colonial Crimes and Slavery

Asokeretope, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Pursuing an African Agenda for Reparations for Colonial Crimes and Slavery

The issue of reparations for the historical injustices of colonization and slavery is once again figuring on international agendas. Over the past two years - and as a result of pressure from civil society actors - European states such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany have undertaken processes to recognize colonial violence in their former African colonies, while international organizations such as the United Nations are multiplying their calls for states to repair their colonial and slavery-related violence. At the level of the African Union, a Continental Agenda for Reparations is starting to take shape. But this growing attention to the question of reparations cannot be achieved without the contributions of African civil society.

Civil society across the African continent has already demonstrated its will to have colonial crimes and their political, economic, social, and material endurance on the continent recognized. For instance, in a successful example in East Africa, former Mau Mau fighters brought a legal case forward seeking reparations for torture they endured during the struggle for independence. In North Africa, the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission (Instance Vérité et Dignité) established in 2014 demanded in its final report reparations from France for the massive human rights violations committed by the French army during the period from March 1956 to July 1961, which resulted in over 7,000 Tunisian victims. The Commission's demands have gone unheeded. More recently, in Southern Africa, after years of negotiations, the Herero and Nama populations, as well as the Namibian government, obtained compensation from Germany for the genocide the colonial government perpetrated against these populations in the early 20th century.

Despite these advances, the scope and reach of efforts underway pale in comparison to the scope of the crimes committed, and their deep and enduring consequences on African societies, lives, and economies. To contribute to an African agenda founded on robust, data-driven knowledge, the African Futures Lab's project "Advancing the reparations agenda for colonial crimes and slavery in Africa," supported by the OpenSociety Policy Center, pursues the following objectives:

  1. To strengthen African civil society organizations' demands for reparations related to colonial violence and slavery and their contemporary consequences on the continent with robust, data-driven knowledge
  2. To coordinate African civil society actors in designing a reparations agenda for colonial violence and slavery and their consequences and legacies
  3. To inform policymaking related to reparations for colonial crimes and slavery at the international, regional, and national levels (in former colonial powers and former colonized states) with recommendations formulated by African civil society actors

Over the course of the grant period (September 2022-September 2024), AfaLab will conduct research on the state of reparations demands in each of the 5 regions of the African continent and organize a series of regional Mobilization Labs with civil society actors currently involved in - or interested in - bringing forward claims for reparations from states, corporations, and other institutions. The MobLabs will not only yield strategies specific to the needs of participants, but also Regional Reparations Toolkits that will serve as a resource for civil society actors across the continent.

The project's research team includes: AfaLab co-directors Liliane Umubyeyi, PhD and Amah Edoh, PhD, Noureddine Amara, PhD, Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, PhD, and Mutoy Mubiala, PhD.

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