French PM rules out slav­ery repa­ra­tions

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

ACCRA —French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls is­sued an appeal on Sun­day to over­come the legacy of slav­ery, dis­miss­ing claims for fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion while ac­knowl­edg­ing the “hor­ror” of the slave trade.

Valls was visit­ing Franklin House, a for­mer slave hub in the Ghana­ian cap­i­tal Accra, on Sun­day on the sec­ond leg of a three-coun­try tour of West Africa.

“We can­not re­pair slav­ery but we can pre­pare the fu­ture” he said in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished by the French daily Le Monde and the English mag­a­zine The Africa Re­port.

Valls re­jected the idea of com­pen­sa­tion, in­stead ad­vo­cat­ing for strength­ened trade re­la­tions be­tween Africa and Europe.

“It is not so much about liv­ing for the idea of repa­ra­tion... as about look­ing to to­mor­row, about strength­en­ing the ties be­tween our two con­ti­nents on ei­ther side of the Mediter­ranean,” he said.

“The slave trade was a dis­as­ter on a large scale. That re­al­ity must be re­mem­bered, taught and ham­mered home,” he said, “the many atroc­i­ties, rapes and mur­ders. It was a crime against hu­man­ity.”

But Valls ar­gued against calls for repa­ra­tions, re­ject­ing the idea that Africa’s his­tory is solely de­fined by slav­ery.

“Mem­ory should not di­vide. It should, on the con­trary, close frac­tures and bring peo­ple to­gether, if only we do not give in to the aw­ful­ness of com­pet­ing mem­o­ries, hi­er­ar­chies and com­par­ing the suf­fer­ing of some with the mis­for­tune of oth­ers.

“I also know that the his­tory of Africa is so much more than the his­tory of slav­ery, to which it is too of­ten re­duced,” he said, adding: “I know that Africa has the strength to free it­self from that past.”

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande on a May 2015 trip to the Caribbean spoke of the debt France owed to Haiti, but his of­fice later said he was re­fer­ring to a “moral debt” rather than fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion.

France abol­ished slav­ery in all its colonies in 1848 but only recog­nised slav­ery as a crime against hu­man­ity since 2001.

Valls, who ar­rived in Ghana on Satur­day from Togo, headed later to the Cote d’Ivoire. — AFP

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