Reparatio‘ and Charlie Hebdo

For anyone who participated in Paris‘ „Marche Republicaine“ on 11 January, four days after the terrorist attacks there started, whether physically or „by heart“, this article might well disturb the collective feelings of self-righteousness and celebration of French and European “values“ that underlied the March. But I have to tell you what I am about to tell you, not only for the sake to truth but also for your own security.
But let me start by expressing how, since days now, my mind has pretty much totally been taken up by the shock of the tragedy that has manifested in France. The terrorist attacks that shook that country have deeply impacted me and touched me to the heart. Partly, this feeling of profound sadness and grief, much stronger than I observe it in my Austrian friends and family, may have been amplified by the fact that I spent three years of my life in Paris, studying social and cultural anthropology and international law. Yet,I also discern that my affection for this city only amplified that feeling of profound sadness that has been sucking me in these past days. The root reason for my deep distress is another.

Just as most people in France and the rest of Europe, I find it most abject how journalists, caricaturists (whether I appreciate the content of their output, which in this case I do not), police officers and civil hostages were killed in such an horrible way. Yet, joining into the grief about this loss of lives, my most profound sadness comes from the fact that the reaction to the drama, from “left“ to “right“ of the political spectrum, is foaming with self-righteousness, when self-righteousness is really the least we need in this situation, as it leaves us with little hope that the future could look any brighter. On the contrary, right now state terrorists (otherwise called heads of state) of France, Britain, Gabon, Jordan, Israel, (all of whom should arguably find themselves standing trial before the International Criminal Court) and others are parading and presenting themselves as defenders of liberty and “values“ against all odds.
I am deeply saddened also over the fact that these three young people who became terrorists were marginalized by French and European society to the extent that they ended up how they did. I am most deeply saddened and alarmed by the knowledge that their backgrounds and experiences in this society seemingly do not substantially differ from those of hundreds of thousands of other young people in French low income neighborhoods and banlieues.
Some time not even so long ago, many such young people found a certain support and comfort in the hip-hop and reggae movements, such as also Cherif Kouachi who a few years ago was still rapping. Yet, today it seems that after decades of commerzialisation and water-down-infiltration, those once powerful and revolutionary movements hold little emancipatory and empowering potential for young and marginalized people. Thus, some of them turn to more banging movements that they see on TV and the internet, that they see actually doing something with the might of kalashnikovs and AKs against those whom the young people experience as their alienators and exploiters. Having witnessed how “their“ French state destroyed liberation movements in order to continue to enrich itself economically and geopolitically, more of them now turn to violent islamist movements to escape their feeling of powerlessness that has been systematically produced by the dominant society by means of police and military violence and by commerzialisation of everything and everybody.

So, what grieves me most these past couple days, besides the sadness about the violent death of so many people in a city I hold dear in my heart, is that in what is depicted by the media no one seems to grasp the obvious connection between France’s age-old history as colonizer and oppressor, extending ever-strong to this day, and the violence that has now reached and hit the “ mother country“ itself – by the hands of children of those same nations that France has systematically and continously oppressed and exploited.
The fact that the violence of the terrorists now does not hit back in an analytically sound and reflective manner, but comes coated in ideological madness directed at the wrong targets, is in no way dismissive of such a connection. On the contrary, history has demonstrated often enough that violence by the oppressed engendered by systematic violence is often not directed against the actual source of the problem, but finds expression in contradictory terms that will not necessarily have any emancipatory or progressive potential, as brilliantly analyzed by Frantz Fanon.

Over decades, France has brutally suppressed liberation movements in both North and Southern African countries, eliminating by means of state terrorism all leaders who would show any sign of persuing emancipatory politics for their people; politics that were not soaked in ideological and religious madness, but were reflective and sensible, such as in Burkina Faso, Algeria, Mali, Ivory Coast, Camerun, and so many other countries. So no one, but really no one should have to wonder when young people today go looking for salvation with radical and violent islamism. That does not mean at all that such young people would be “right“ in this, but these developments are just not surprising, and it is indeed criminal and irresponsible of leading French and international politicians to negate this elementary connection and to portray the terrorists against Charlie Hebdo and the hostage taker in the grocery store as simply mad and evil individuals. This becomes even more evident when one considers the statements by schoolers aged 12-17 from Saint Denis, reported by Le Monde the day after the abatement of the terrorists. Saint Denis is a notorious banlieue north of Paris that brought forth some legendary and foundational hip hop groups in France, such as Supreme NTM. The youths interviewed by the renowed French newspaper expressed utterances such as “for me, I did not really want to partake in the minute of silence, I don’t find it right to honor them because they insulted islam, and also the other religions“, “I partook for those who were killed, but not for Charlie, the guy who drew. I have no pity for him. He had zero respect for us muslims. But it’s not worth killing 12 people. They could have killed only him“, or “they killed Charlie because he did not respect the religion. They attacked islam, at there, they got to see another aspect of islam, the rage. If Charlie continues, the youth here will move!“. Saint Denis is two metro stations from where I used to live during my last two years in Paris, with a similar population composition, and with all the obvious and less obvious problems there, I really loved my neighborhood.
The refusal by the political class and mainstream society to take the views of these youths seriously and to look for causes of terrorism within their own responsibility in both international and domestic European/French politics, will not make the problem disperse into vapor, just as it will not be possible to get rid of it with military or police strategies.

The fact that the hostage taker Amedy Coulibaly committed horrible acts does not take away some truth that he expressed in his conversation with the hostages, recorded through a badly hooked telephone. Amedy Coulibaly said among other things, “it is you who vote in your governments and your governments have never hidden from you that they will go to war in Mali or elsewhere. (…) It is you who finance them. You pay taxes and things and you agree (with them)“. One hostage responded, “when I pay taxes, it is for streets, schools (…). We pay our taxes, but we don’t hurt anybody“ . Which, I am sorry, is not true (though arguably, the recent intervention in Mali might have had more positives than negatives, as islamists were not only slaughtering people but also destroying world heritage sites and ancient libraries). In fact, the taxes that French, European and US tax payers pay do finance all those neocolonial wars that hurt and kill a great many people from Libya to Ivory Coast while fattening the pockets of the “Western“ ruling classes.
Without endorsing Coulibaly’s actions, his reasoning on this point is objectively more accurate than that of the hostage, which conforms to the collective self-deception of the majority of people in Europe. In fact, it is the tax money of French people that finance the military expeditions of that nation that hurt many people in other parts of the world very much and cost many lives.
I am deeply grieved for the lives lost in these recent terrorist attacks, and I am also deeply saddened for the millions of people of Algeria and Mali, that France colonized and brutalized over centuries, a history without which the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly would not have come to live at the low end of the social stratum in France, just as I feel deeply sad for the people of Guadeloupe, Guiana and Martinique, where the national liberation movements were brutally crushed by France, after centuries of genocidal enslavement, without which the young Martiniquan police woman who was killed by one of the terrorists would not have been at the wrong place at the wrong moment. And those are facts.
So, the only way that France and other European and “Western“ nations will be able to prevent more terrorist violence being perpetrated on their own soil in the future, is that they finally proceed to reparations for their age-long genocides and crimes against humanity, such as is their clear obligation by international law. One such form of reparation owed by European countries by international law, but by far not the only one, is cessation – meaning in practice desisting from continuing to rob African countries from Algeria to Mali, countries of origin of the authors of the recent acts of terrorism, of their natural ressources and from continuing to sabotage their sovereignty.
The only reason why France and “Western“ powers today can play world police, with the motivation of protecting and expanding ever further their own economic power and geopolitical interests, is that they acquired the power to do so through centuries of state terrorism, continuing to the present, even if camouflaged in this era more often than not as “humanitarian interventions“.
It might be late, too late to expect that reparations now would solve all the world’s ills and rid islamist terrorists of their ideologies in the blink of an eye, but I guarantee you that there is no other way to a peaceful solution and to a human future on this planet.
Global African and Indigenous Peoples‘ Reparations Now or Perish!
– by Dr. Nora Kamala Wittmann
Dr. Wittmann is an international lawyer and social anthropologist and author of „Slavery Reparations Time Is Now. Exposing Lies, Claiming Justice for Global Survival – An International Legal Assessment“ and co-author of the children’s book „Little Afeni and the Cause for Reparations“.

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Slavery Reparations – A Caribbean or Global African Claim? A crucial question

Indeed, there is a fundamental problem with the recent CARICOM reparations initiative. Basically, that problem is that it is a Caribbean initiative, based on the conceptualization of a “Caribbean” reparations claim. But the claim for transatlantic slavery reparations is not a Caribbean claim, it is a global African entitlement to reparations, and intrinsically so.
It was when I read a few days ago in an article that PM Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who spearheads the recent CARICOM moves and has no apparent African blood, being the descendant of indentured Portuguese servants, laughed off the suggestion that his ethnic background is relevant by stating that “I am a Caribbean man” , that I realized that this is indeed the main hitch with the current CARICOM reparations initiative.
Descendants of German or Portuguese indentured laborers, not even the Indian indentured laborers who were brought to the Caribbean by the colonial administration after the abolition of slavery, cannot claim reparations for transatlantic slavery if they have no African blood in them. These populations of the Caribbean may be able to claim reparations from European colonizers as well, but that will be a different, though of course connected, claim with a distinct legal basis. When I say connected, I mean that it was transatlantic slavery, the labor stolen from the genocidal enslavement of Africans illegally perpetrated for over more than 400 years, that allowed European states such as Britain to colonize and impoverish other nations, such as India, and to then carry off these nations’ distressed citizens as indentured laborers to work for them at low costs.
But for reparations to be effective, they have to be structural, strategic and scientific. By this I mean that they have to be structural, strategic and scientific from a historical and cause-and-effect perspective. Those later, consequential colonizations and even the poverty that parts of European peoples suffered whose nations had lost ground in the inter-european competition over colonial wealth, such as Portuguese peasants, were direct consequences of the crime of transatlantic slavery perpetrated on Africa and Africans on the continent and in the lands they had been deported to.

It is thus crucial to grasp that it is not Caribbean societies and states as such that have a claim to transatlantic slavery reparations – though they will undoubtedly profit in their entirety from comprehensive global African reparations. The structural and most ferocious violence against the African by Europeans is what Caribbean societies were founded upon. Thus, without reparations and healing directed specifically at the African, no healing can come for Caribbean societies. Global African reparations are the heartpiece of healing for Caribbean societies. And in this, one thing is as sure as the sun rising in the morning; the descendants of Europeans in the Caribbean have no claim whatsoever to transatlantic slavery reparations. Thus, the above mentioned statement of Gonsalves of him being “a Caribbean man” in reponse to criticism of his putting himself in front of this CARICOM reparations initiative, would be ridiculous if not so dangerous. Persons whose families have been in the Caribbean for centuries and who are still have a distinctively European appearance, have no claim to transatlantic slavery reparations. Even if PM Ralph Gonsalves ancestors were not enslavers, but Portuguese indentured servants, one is still left to wonder how they managed to keep so pale-skinned if they did not adhere to the same European white supremacist philosophy as the European enslavers and maintained a conscious effort to keep their blood “pure” from African contamination. It is clear that Gonsalves has no claim to transatlantic slavery reparations. He could and should support the African population in his country in the global African reparations claim, but there is no base on which he can speak of those having a rightful claim to slavery reparations as “we”.

It needs to be highlighted again that nothing of what has been stated so far in this article does imply of course that members of other nations would have no rights to reparations by the European aggressors. This is most true for the indigenous populations of what is now called the Caribbean and South America. But these were, for the most part, wiped out by the European aggression. And where they survived, they mixed with the Africans. These people of course have a sound legal claim to reparations today, based on the crimes both against their indigenous American and African ancestors and the continuing aggressions against indigenous and African people globally by the European colonizers and neo-colonialists.

In fact, and this is most important for people to realize, if we look at international law and what it provides as reparations for transatlantic slavery, it becomes clear to that if the claim is kept where it is – that is global African reparations- and brought to justice, global healing will automatically come out of it. Whereas if this most important claim is opened up to include Caribbean societies “as such” and thus watered down to development schemes and funds, no substantial healing can and will ever come out of it; not for Caribbean, nor African, nor global society. Yes, Caribbean nations need healing, but the violence that was and still is perpetrated against the African part of the Caribbean was so fundamental to the coming into existence of Caribbean societies that the healing also has the be directed specifically at Africans. And not only Africans in the Caribbean, but Africans globally and especially also on the African continent.

Most importantly, transatlantic slavery reparations are not about “developmental funds”, such as voiced as the desirable outcome of the CARICOM initiative by a member of the St. Vincent reparations committee. Thus, even if such a developmental fund would be established “mutually agreed upon with the British” , such a move could never “bring closure” to that period of history until full and comprehesive global African reparations for the crime of transatlantic slavery, perpetrated against Africa and her people globally are realized.
Baldwin Spencer, PM of Antigua and Bermuda, further confirmed concerns that it is indeed the intention of CARICOM leaders to sell out the reparations claim when he said that “Antigua and Barbuda also called on those very states to back up their apologies with new commitments to the economic development of the nations that have suffered from this human tragedy” . Ralph Gonsalves had already insisted earlier that he “does not want to fall out with Britain” . Thus, all evidence suggests that this CARICOM initiative might indeed be nothing short off a political sell-out of the comprehensive reparations claim, such as due by international law and that if realized would bring about a global balance and new global order, for some quick cash that Caribbean politicians are in urgent need of.

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Lampedusa – Genocide Made in EU

A few days ago, a ship sank before the Italian island of Lampedusa. 309 Africans who had been trying to reach into Europe have since been taken out of the sea dead. A fisherman who rescued 49 people with his boat accuses the Italian coast guard that they let the Africans drown, taking almost one hour to reach the sinking ship, only 500m away from the coast. Tragically, this is just one incident of many. Italian and Spanish coast guards have actually been reported to not only unlawfully refuse to assist boats with African migrants caught in distress at sea, but to actually have attacked some in order to force them to back off from the European coast. And these boats sank. Even if not officially declared so, that is EU policy; the borders have to be protected.
And this is genocide. Yes, this EU policy fulfills the legal requirement of genocide. Africans are brought to death for the fact that they are Africans. I remind readers that Articles 2 of the Genocide Convention’s defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
a) Killing members of the group;
b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (…)”.
The policy of Italy and the EU, letting ships of Africans sink and attacking them, causing the death of thousands of Africans in the Mediterranean Sea, clearly fulfills this legal definition since it is directed against Africans because they are Africans. So normally the European leaders, politicans and navy commanders who are behind this should be persons of interest to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Oh, but then I forget that the ICC only deals with the persecution of African leaders, please forgive me .
This ship sank and 309 more Africans died in the Italian sea just a few days after CARICOM leaders launched their initiative for reparations for slavery. Now, what does the ship tragedy have to with with slavery reparations? Everything. European states have been perpetrating a genocide against African people for more then 500 years. They started with transatlantic slavery and on the destruction that they thereby brought upon Africa they built colonialism and violently maintain neo-colonialsm up to this day, on both the continent and the diaspora. And that destruction performed over such a long time on the African continent is responsible for the thousands and millions of African youths who suffer greatly materially every day with their families and are ready to risk their lives to reach Europe. And when they try to do this, the European Union and its member states will kill them or let them die while looking on! The EU has just, a few days after the drowning death of the 309 Africans, declared that it will start using drones along its Mediterranean borders in its fight against Africans.
While I greet the CARICOM reparations initiatve, I regret that it seems to be only concerned with monetary compensation for Caribbean countries, while what we need and what is legally due is COMPREHENSIVE AFRICAN REPARATIONS. And since these might well never be ‘given’, they might have to be ‘taken’.
Or what do you think?

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CARICOM, Reparations & Leigh Day

So why really have CARICOM Heads of States decided to solicit the legal services of a big British law form, Leigh Day, to represent their international legal claim for reparations for slavery against Britain and other European states?

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to see that CARICOM has finally taken up the reparations agenda and seems to be pushing forward with it. Although it is a government approach, and we all know what we can expect from most governments, I really want to make an effort not to be too sceptic and conspirary-theoretic in this case and just be glad to see that people’s power has brought about this situation where things are starting to move also on a inter-governmental level.

Still, the question does not leave me of what’s really up with CARICOM leaders signing up BRITISH law firm Leigh day to represent them in this most fundamental claim against BRITAIN.

So who is this law firm? Many of us will know that it is Leigh Day who recently successfully obtained compensation from Britain for more than 5,228 Mau Mau veterans in Kenya. And in that affair, they have not gone uncritized. One major point of that criticism has been that Leigh Day pocketed one third of the compensation amount they negotionated for their clients for themselves. The Law Society of Kenya asked the list of the Mau Mau veterans that the firm actually represent from Leigh Day. In class actions with many plaintiffs, this is current practice that serves transparency. Leigh Day refused to hand over the list, and there have been reports that people figure among those represented by Leigh Day who do not actually or no longer live. Which would mean even more than one third of the compensation sum actually remaining with Leigh Day.

Last but not least, voices have been raised that the 5,228 Mau Mau veterans represented by Leigh Day are only a fragment of the more than 50,000 living Mau Mau survivors organized in the Mau Mau War Veterans Association (MMWVA), meaning that no comprehensive reparations to the Mau Mau have yet been made by the British government. The bulk of it is still due. But they are now trying to close the case with this “victory” that Leigh Day reached.  The world now believes that justice has been done to the Mau Mau when they have really received only a fraction of what is due.

The question that poses itself now is: Are they trying to do the same with the Caribbean and global African reparations claim? Manouever it into a “reparations” “agreement” that would allow to publicly close the case for a cheap prize? According to Martyn Day, leading laywer at Leigh Day, this is what they are up to, to “seek a negotiated settlement with the governments of France, Britain and the Netherlands along the lines of the British agreement in June to issue a statement of regret and award compensation of about $21.5 million to the surviving Kenyans”.

It also seems strange to me that CARICOM has three lawyers of that law firm flown in from Britain, while Anthony Gifford, a legal pioneer in the field of reparations for slavery, sits in the Caribbean and has not even been invited.

In any case, I think it is significant that Leigh Day is a big law firm domiciled in BRITAIN. What interest would it really have in the attainment of the comprehensive reparations that are due by international law for transatlantic slavery and that would not only cost its nation massive financial ressources but also crush much of the exploitative structures that Britain still violently feeds upon to maintain her economy?

If we just answer that question honestly, we will know the essentials of what we need to know about Leigh Day and their involvment in the CARICOM reparations initiative.

Or what are you thinking about this?

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Slavery Reparations Time Is Now!!!!!!!

So now I finally have my first book out. I hope that “Slavery Reparations Time Is Now” will help the people by documenting and exposing clearly what’t up legally when it comes to reparations for slavery. We need comprehensive global African reparations to survive on this planet. Earth has suffered too much and life here gotten too out of balance because of this most massive crime, perpetrated for over 500 years. According to international law, it effectively is the end of capitalism that is legally due as reparations for transatlantic slavery. Even my supervising prof for the dissertation that lies at the base of this my book, could and did not contest this and graded the work with “excellent”. And she is married to a politician of the conservative party in Austria….
Anyhow, now I must get the people exposed to the book, because even the most solid and detailed research for practical improvement of people’s lives has no use if it doesn’t reach the people. So, please if you have any constructive suggestions in that regard, let it be known here. And if you read this and think that it sounds interesting, get the book, share it around and tell a friend… Oh, and it even features never-before-published text quotes by the great Ayi Kwei Armah on the matter of reparations!

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