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Chiefs held to book

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Dec 15, 2009 | From the print edition

DownToEarth (Credit: Divya)A coalition of African civil rights groups has asked the continents traditional rulers to apologize for the role they played in the slave trade. We
cannot continue to blame the white men, as Africans, particularly the traditional rulers, are not blameless, noted Civil Rights Congress in Lagos
in an open letter to the traditional chiefs. This is the first time an African group has recognized the complicity of the continents chieftains in the
slave trade.

Shehu Sani, president of the group, said an apology is pertinent for Nigeria because its traditional rulers are seeking constitutional sanction for
their position. For them to have the moral standing to be part of the constitutional arrangement, certain historical issues must be addressed,
Sani said.

The letter notes that on behalf of slave buyers the traditional rulers raided communities and kidnapped people, shipping them away across the
Sahara or across the Atlantic. More than a million people are thought to have died while in transit due to the inhuman conditions on the slave
ships and brutal suppression of any resistance. The letter notes that representatives of chieftains were complicit in the suppression. A
spokesperson of Nigerias chieftains ruled out any apology. By all means rectify any injustice that continues, but dont condemn us as
wrongdoers by inheritance.

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