Reparations: Nana Akufo-Addo’s highly political appeal

Damien Glez
By Damien Glez

A French/Burkinabé artist and editorialist.

Posted on Thursday, 4 August 2022 16:54

Image by Damien Glez

On social networks, Ghana’s president reopened the debate on the financial reparations that, according to him, should be paid to African victims of slavery. 

Are there crimes that should never be subject to a statute of limitations, across the centuries, above and beyond the generations or changes in political regimes? Accused of being too cosy with the unfashionable West and of reneging on his promise of independence from the IMF, Ghana’s president has played a wild card: the memory of slavery.

Posted on Tuesday, Nana Akufo-Addo’s tweets declare that the time has come for a debate on financial reparations for the continent whose “20 million sons and daughters had their freedom curtailed and were sold into slavery.”

Emphatically, the series of posts insist that: “There are myriad stories of families torn apart. Fathers who went fishing and never returned, boys who went out to play and never came home, girls who went out to fetch water and never saw their parents again.” More prosaically, the tweets refer to devastating consequences “over several centuries.”

Appeal to the African Union

The Ghanaian president called for recognition of the tragedy, an apology from European nations and reparations, adding that no amount of money could repair the stifling of the continent’s “economic, cultural and psychological progress.”

With indignance, he launched a delicate competition of memories by evoking survivors of the Holocaust and the Amerindians, all of whom received reparations…


Akufo-Addo has urged the AU to form a united front with Africans in the diaspora around his cause. But why him and why now? A few weeks after stepping down as ECOWAS chairman, what legitimacy does Akufo-Addo have to bring forth this debate, which resembles a sea serpent with many heads? The route of many West African slaves passed through the old Gold Coast, especially the Ghanaian city of Cape Coast.

As for the timing, the Ghanaian president’s series of tweets was posted in the wake of a summit on “slavery reparations and racial healing.”

Moreover, by zooming in on the issue, Akufo-Addo may be hoping to surf a new wave of African pride, especially in West African swing states that have labelled the Ghanaian president a supporter of neocolonialism. For a presidential image lift, invoking the ancestors never hurts.

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