Call for international slave trade research network

Experts from Central African countries have called for the establishment of an international network of researchers and academics who are working on the slave trade and routes from the region, and for a relaunch of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project.

The call was made by historians, researchers, scientists and other specialists from Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of the Congo who attended a workshop held in Pointe Noire, Congo, in August, reported Agence d’Information d’Afrique Centrale, or ADIAC.

The meeting was organised by the Multi-sectoral Regional Office for Central Africa of UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture and Arts of the Republic of the Congo.

La Prospérité of Kinshasa reported that the workshop was among events, under the title Un Engagement pour la Réconciliation – “A Commitment to Reconciliation” – marking the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, launched in Ouidah, Benin in 1994. This aimed to:
  • • Contribute to a better understanding of the causes, forms of operation, issues and consequences of slavery in the world – Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Asia.
  • • Highlight the global transformations and cultural interactions that have resulted from this history.
  • • Contribute to a culture of peace by promoting reflection on cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenships.
The three-day workshop discussed the various current research programmes on the slave routes and slavery in Central Africa, and the need to promote awareness of their history through memorial tourism and to preserve the sites in the region, reported ADIAC.

ADIAC reported Ana Elisa de Santana Afonso, UNESCO representative in the Republic of Congo, as telling participants:

“UNESCO considers it important to bring together key eminent international personalities from research and the arts of Central Africa around a scientific activity dealing with one of the longest and most terrible tragedies in the history of mankind, the slave trade, and its memory; and the idea of an economic activity producing jobs and income, remembrance tourism; because the organisation is pleading the case to put culture at the heart of the development agenda after 2015.”

At its conclusion the participants recommended that as well as relaunching the UNESCO project, the countries of Central Africa should give more prominence to the slave trade and its history through such initiatives as revision of textbooks and teacher training, legal recognition by states of the slave trade as a crime against humanity and official promotion of memorial tourism, reported by ADIAC.

They also asked UNESCO for its expertise and support to help set up a network of researchers and other specialists on the slave trade and slavery in Central Africa, and for the creation or strengthening of national committees on the slave routes in those countries, and the sharing of research work and activities on the subject carried out on other continents.

During the event workshop participants visited Loango, the former slave-trading port about 20 kilometres from Pointe Noire, reported ADIAC.

ADIAC described the remains in Loango which marked the passage made by millions of slaves, including the stele, now in need of restoration, symbolising both their point of departure and the marketplace; three mango trees used as markers for rituals carried out by slaves around the ‘tree of forgetfulness’; and the mudflats that served as a landing stage.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.