Africa's history is often punctuated with dark moments and there is always an impetus to continue revisiting history so that old wounds are healed. And the recurrent feature that comes out when one delves into African history is the urgent need for tremendous unity, for oneness as Africa.
This is the point that Muammar Gaddafi was at pains to convey during his time of existence. He always stressed the need for Africa to be united and stave off Western imperialism at all costs. His iron fist blighted his tenure, but when it came to Revolution, to Pan-Africanism, he was very resolute and unwavering.
The Arab Slave trade was a moment in history where Africans were subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment that stripped all their dignity and worth away from them. His speech at the 2nd Arab-African summit in Sirte in October 2010 was an opportunity for him to redress this dark moment in Africa's history. He used the opportunity to apologize on behalf of Arabs for the dehumanizing treatment that Africans were subjugated to and made subservient to.
This is an excerpt of his speech:
On behalf of the Arabs, I’ll like to condemn, apologize, and express deep sorrow for the conduct of some Arabs – especially the wealthy among them – towards their African brothers.
The wealthy Arabs treated their African brothers in a disgraceful way in the past. They brought children and took them to North Africa, to the Arabian Peninsula, and to other Arab regions.
They subjugated and traded in them. They engaged in slavery and human trafficking in a most abominable fashion, to tell you the truth.
We are ashamed, along with our African brothers, when we recall this. We are ashamed of those who behaved in this manner, and especially the wealthy Arabs, who viewed their African brothers as inferior slaves.
This is no different from the way the West – America, and Europe – behaved towards the Africans. They would hunt them like animals, treat them like slaves, and act like colonialists. They engaged in colonialism and exploited them, and this continues to this day.
We extend our apology and express our sorrow.
By acknowledging and "apologizing for the historical enslavement and trafficking of Africans across North Africa and the Middle East by Arabs (still ongoing today)," Gaddafi tackled head-on the menace of Anti-black racism in the Arab world.
More than 700 years before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Sub-Saharan Slave Trade, which is also known as the Arab Slave Trade, had already begun in the late 7th century. The conditions for this were made fertile after the Arabs successfully defeated and took over Egypt and soon controlled North Africa, East Africa and parts of West Africa such as Northern Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria. It gave them vast control over these parts and their whims dictated the fate of the black person at that time.
In the contemporary age, the slave trade is still happening as slaves are sold off in Libya when they attempt to flee from the misery of their countries by crossing the Mediterranean. Attitudes possessed by the late Muammar Gaddafi need to reign supreme so that the goal of unity in Africa is achieved.
Credits - Face 2 Face Africa
Header image credit - Pambazuka news