20 December 2013


Sir Ronald Sanders

On Friday 18th October, Sir Ronald Sanders featured on a three-man panel at a public symposium at Senate House, University of London on 'Slavery and Reparations".   Also on the panel was Dan Leader one of the lawyers in the UK firm Leigh Day that represented Kenyan Mau Mau victims in their legal case against the UK government, and Professor Philip Murphy, Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Author,  Sir Ronald's presentation follows.

In 1838, British slave owners in the English-Speaking Caribbean received £11.6 billion in today’s value as compensation for the emancipation of their “property” – 655,780 human beings of African descent that they had enslaved and exploited, and, in many cases, brutalised.

The freed slaves, by comparison, received nothing in recompense for their dehumanisation, their cruel treatment, the abuse of their labour and the plain injustice of their enslavement.

This is the basis on which 14 governments of the member-states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) believe there is a case for reparations.

Reparations debate not new

The Caribbean governments are targeting the governments of Britain, France and the Netherlands even though the initiator of the Atlantic slave trade was Portugal followed closely by Spain.

Indeed, while Britain passed legislation to end the slave trade in 1807 – almost three hundred years after it started – and to abolish slavery in 1838, the Spanish and Portuguese kept their trade alive, exploiting African slave labour for their economic benefit until the second half of the 19th Century.

The reason that the 14 governments are tackling only Britain, France and the Netherlands is that these three were their colonial masters responsible for slavery in these particular jurisdictions.

The issue of reparations for slavery is, of course, not new. It has been discussed for years.