2019 Issue

Reflections on the "Year Of Return": Transitioning into a "Decade of Reconciliation"

Author: Baffour Boaten Boahen-Boaten


This year, 2019, was dubbed the ‘Year of Return’ by the leadership of Ghana to commemorate the 400th anniversary since the first ship carrying slaves from Africa (mainly West Africa) arrived on the shores of the New World (the Americas).

The geographical space now called Ghana was a key region where slaves were taken from to the new world. Indeed, it is recorded that the first European structure in Sub-Saharan Africa was the Elmina Castle, in Ghana (formerly Gold Coast) built in 1482. The word “Elmina” has Portuguese origins as the Portuguese, is reported to be the first Europeans to come to the coast of Ghana in 1471.

Thus the “Year of Return” was instituted to encourage all people of black ancestry in the diaspora to come home. 

Bra Fie (to wit “Come Home”)

Come home to Ghana (where many of you may come from historically) as we have opened our arms to receive you.

Summarily, this “Year of Return” has been successful as notable African American figures, black people in the diaspora and many people of different racial backgrounds have heeded the call and made the trip to Ghana.

As we prepare to bid goodbye to 2019, I believe that the Government of the Republic of Ghana can leverage on this very successful “Year of Return” and transition into a “Decade of Reconciliation”.

Why is this important?

For a long time, I have observed that the conversation on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade takes the form of a black-white adversarial dichotomy. Such conversations do not allow for the proper interrogation of the nuances of the slave trade.

My point basically, is that there was black/African complicity in this centuries-old trade yet this is conspicuously missing in the whole narrative on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In simple terms, Africans sold their fellow Africans into slavery. This must be acknowledged. Thus, a ‘Decade of Reconciliation‘ will mean Ghanaian (African) authorities duly acknowledging this and rendering an apology.

Yes! Our leaders should render an apology on national and international platforms for those historical roles – for black complicity in the slave trade.

After that, we should put in place restitution measures for those in the diaspora such as visa-free access to Ghana and other structural incentives to ease their journey and transition to trace their roots and reclaim their identity.

We must teach about these experiences in schools in a way to instill a sense of “Ubuntu” (Togetherness) in the younger generation that never again will we tread that path.

Indeed, as a black African, I may not fully comprehend the African-American experience and vice versa hence we must begin to put in place measures to ease the seeming uneasiness and divide between Africans and African-Americans.

Above all, we must embark on public education to teach pro-social values including treating ALL human beings with love and respect. These ideas when implemented may take long to bear fruits but let us start for the succeeding generations to follow.

It is when such measures are taken, in my opinion, that we will begin to see true reconciliation and our brothers and sisters in the diaspora will really return home.

Thank you!

Categories: 2019 Issue, News