The Caribbean case for Reparations from Britain

Reparations: a case for settlement

A Rastafarian man holds up a cardboard placard calling for reparations during a demonstration as Britain's Prince Harry visited the non-governmental organisation RISE in Kingston on March 6, 2012. - AP
[A Rastafarian man holds up a cardboard placard calling for reparations during a demonstration as Britain’s Prince Harry visited the non-governmental organisation RISE in Kingston on March 6, 2012. – AP]

Courtenay Barnett, Guest Columnist, The Gleaner (Jamaica, West Indies), Sunday, June 30, 2013

This month, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) was required to pay 19.9 million pounds in compensation to some 5,000 elderly Kenyans who were tortured and abused during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s. This case bears lessons for the Caribbean and it also has much to teach about the true nature of the British Empire.

The British imposed themselves in Kenya and confiscated land. In 1948, a quarter-million Kenyans were confined to 2,000 square miles, while 30,000 English settlers lived on 12,000 square miles of the most fertile lands in Kenya. Africans under an apartheid and colonial policy were forbidden to enter certain areas and confined away from the most arable land.

Not surprisingly, the Kenyans rebelled and started a violent campaign against the white settlers in 1952. The colonialists responded, and the Kenya Human Rights Commission estimated that 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed. There was the use of literal concentration camps as a nationwide network of detention for some 160,000 who were detained in the most appalling conditions.

TORTURED

President Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, happened to be one of those detained persons. He had pins placed into his fingernails and in his buttocks and his testicles were squeezed between metal rods. Other Kenyans were forcibly relocated in new villages. Within the camps, the British inflicted beatings, castrated, raped and performed other forms of sexual abuse and torture applying brutal interrogation techniques against the Kenyans.

It was against this background that elderly Kenyans who had suffered abuse when detained filed a claim in the English High Court. Two of the original five claimants had been castrated and an African lady who had been raped was included in the claim. Continue reading

Jamaica Revives Slavery Reparations Commission

British ship in the Middle Passage of the African Slave Trade

By DAVID McFADDEN Associated Press

KINGSTON, Jamaica November 2, 2012 (AP)

Jamaica has revived a reparations commission to research slavery’s social and economic impact and examine whether the predominantly black Caribbean island should seek compensation or a formal apology from Britain to heal old wounds, officials said Thursday.

The government-formed commission has about 2½ years to receive submissions, evaluate research and undertake public consultations in order to make recommendations for a possible reparations claim, said chairwoman Verene A. Shepherd, a historian who is director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at Jamaica’s University of the West Indies.

Shepherd said the work of the reconvened commission started Thursday. It is made up of roughly a dozen academics, lawyers, Rastafarians and students. A previous panel formed in 2009 was disbanded a year later due to financial constraints.

In the British colony of Jamaica, enslaved Africans were bought and sold at auctions

Jamaica is a former British colony where slavery was abolished on Aug. 1, 1834.

Although estimates vary, researchers say tens of millions of African men, women and children were enslaved and shipped to the Caribbean and the Americas, with millions dying in holding camps in Africa or during the trans-Atlantic voyage.

Historians say their labor alone made a vast difference to the economies of the New and Old World. In Jamaica, most slaves were forced to work under brutal conditions on sugar plantations. Continue reading