By Frederic Tendeng
Senegal’s President, Maître Abdoulaye Wade, last Thursday announced that his government will soon enact a bill that declares the pre-colonial slave trade and practice “a crime against humanity”.
President Wade made the announcement during his Thursday weekly cabinet meeting at his presidential palace. A press release from Senegal’s official gazette on the deliberation that followed the cabinet meeting confirmed the Senegalese President’s intention. However, the release revealed that Wade has decided to let the Senegalese parliament choose between either a solemn declaration or a proclamation at the end of the official procedure that will lead to the adoption of slave trade as a crime against humanity.
President Wade’s latest stand on this issue came shortly after he met on Tuesday with Karfa Diallo, a French national, born of Senegalese parents. Karfa Diallo is the President of an Association called DiversCités that seeks to rally African countries behind a massive movement to declare slave trade and practice “a crime against humanity”.
DiversCités deems it necessary for African countries to engage a memory work on the slave trade as an act of justice. The Association further stands for Africans in the continent and the Diaspora to be compensated as a result of the tragedy caused to them by the shameful slave trade. So far President Abdoulaye Wade has strictly rejected the idea of Africans being compensated for suffering slavery. According to him, such a move will legitimate the mercenary and lucrative aspect of slave trade.
Wade’s move to declare slavery “a crime against humanity” came nearly nine years after the adoption of such a law by France which is so far the only European country to have officially considered slavery “a crime against humanity”. The French declaration was a consensual law adopted on May 10, 2001 upon the initiative of Christiane Taubira – Delannon a French parliamentarian from Guyana. Under that law, “the French Republic recognizes that the transatlantic slave trade and trafficking of the fifteenth century against African people, Amerindian, Malagasy and in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, as well as the practice of slavery in the Americas, Caribbean and Europe on the other hand, constitute a crime against humanity”.
The Western led slave trade and practice deported some 11 million Africans to the European colonies in the Americas and the Indian Ocean in just less than four centuries (late 15th century until the 1860s).
In 1992, Pope John Paul II who was on a visit in Senegal, apologized to Africa for the crimes of slavery.
By Frederic Tendeng