The 2023 Accra Reparations Conference was organised by the African Union and the Government of Ghana from 14-17 November 2023 under the theme “Building a United Front to Advance the Cause of Justice and the Payment of Reparations to Africans.” Attendees included academics, policymakers, activists, and civil society actors, in addition to heads of state and dignitaries from the Ghanaian government, African and Caribbean governments, and intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations and Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The central aim of this conference was to convene relevant stakeholders from across the African continent and diaspora for substantive deliberations, the sharing of best practices, and the development of actionable strategies to promote and advance a continental initiative for reparative justice. The 2023 Reparations Conference follows the 2022 Advancing Justice: Reparations and Racial Healing Summit that took place in Accra in August 2022 and which resulted in the Accra Declaration on Reparations and Racial Healing.
The conference began with remarks from several dignitaries, including a keynote speech from Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo. Over the course of the conference, speakers and attendees discussed the legal basis and arguments for reparations, shared strategies for creating sustainable reparative justice mechanisms, and practical steps for mobilising widespread support for the reparations agenda.
Justice was a key theme that emerged from the conference deliberations. Speakers noted that many of the issues Africans and people of African descent around the world continue to face are a direct impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. They also noted that reparative justice in the form of financial reparations is not only a moral and legal obligation, but is also a critical part of fully rectifying the wrongs committed during the era of colonisation. Another key theme that emerged was unity. One speaker, Jasmine Mickens stated, “Our power is in our unity.” This sentiment was echoed by other speakers and dignitaries throughout the conference. While the conference convened attendees from different professional backgrounds and from different places within the African continent and diaspora, it was clear that attendees and speakers were unified in their desire to see reparatory justice for Africans and people of African descent around the world.
Reflecting on my own experience at this conference, there are two lessons that I believe can be applied in other spaces.
- The first lesson is the power and necessity of intergenerational diaspora work. Shabaka’s work has an intergenerational focus as we know that diaspora engagement is not limited to first generation immigrants or to people above a certain age. Young people and 1.5, 2nd and subsequent generations of diaspora work to support the development of their ancestral homelands and this was evident during the conference. This diversity of experience was represented at the conference by the attendees both in age and immigrant generation. Participation from the younger diasporans included, but was not limited to, a statement from Bell Ribeiro-Addy, second generation British-Ghanaian who is the Member of Parliament for Streatham in the United Kingdom and the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Afrikan Reparations. She led a panel that explored the role of youth and women in reparations advocacy, and she noted that with the media age on the African continent being 19, it is important to maintain intergenerational engagement to ensure intergenerational perspectives are included in these efforts.
- The second key lesson I learned from this conference is the importance of inter-diaspora cooperation. In addition to being intergenerational, the conference saw representation from the African, African-American, Caribbean, European, and Latin American diasporas, in addition to people based on the African continent. This ultimately speaks to the widespread impact and legacy of slavery and colonisation, but also demonstrates the desire of people of African descent around the world to work together for our common good. The African diaspora is not a monolith, and while different groups may have different priorities, the Accra Reparations Conference is an example of what people of African descent can accomplish with a unified goal. Mobilising inter-diaspora support for a cause can be applied to other spaces, including in the humanitarian sector. One example of this was the support provided by Africans on the continent and the diaspora to third-country African nationals caught in Ukraine at the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022.
Attending the Accra Reparations Conference was an informative and empowering experience for participants, and Shabaka looks forward to seeing how the movement grows in its quest for reparative justice for people of African descent around the world.