The truth is out. The crimes of colonialism have been laid bare. Now, in return for centuries of rape, pillage, slavery, and exploitation, the moment has come to ensure the descendants of colonised peoples get their fair share of the spoils.
Calls for reparations are as old as the evils they seek to redress. Yet in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death, new energies are being harnessed to compel the onetime tyrants of Europe to compensate those they tyrannized.
“Pay up” is on the lips of every half-righteous observer of the imperial legacy — and for good reason. The time is ripe for the expansionist West to pay reparations not merely for the suffering it caused but for ruining ways of life going back ages, leaving behind scars both psychological and material which may never heal.
This much is plain. Reparations are meant not as one-and-done absolutions for colonial abuses, but merely as the beginning of a process of making amends.
And for what? For the genocide (only lately recognized) of the Herero and the Nama, peoples of what is now Namibia exterminated wholesale by German settlers shortly before the outbreak of WWI.
For France’s (and then the US’s) financial enslavement of Haiti’s postcolonial economy, which saw the island nation crippled by debt, poverty, and underdevelopment — to its former occupiers’ continued enrichment.
For the torture of some 5,000 Kenyans at the hands of the British during the Mau Mau rebellion, which spanned the 1950s and saw numerous war crimes committed.
For France’s abandonment of 90,000 loyalist Harki Muslims, who fought alongside the colonisers in the Algerian war of independence and, by way of thanks, were left to rot in war camps.
For France’s systematic torture of Algerian independence fighters, acknowledged only recently after decades of erasure and denial.
For the mutilation and starvation and massacre of millions of indentured Congolese under all- time despot King Leopold II of Belgium in the late nineteenth century.
For the trillions of dollars’ worth of wealth siphoned into European (primarily British) coffers — where it remains — by way of the enslavement of African peoples removed to the Caribbean. Fifty billion dollars, according to activists, would be a not-insulting first instalment.
For the bondage of some ten million Africans carried off to North America over the course of 250 years, whose 400 billion–odd hours of forced labour lined the pockets of the land’s white occupiers even as it sowed indelible trauma and lasting inequality in the United States.
For a litany of genocides and atrocities and other misdeeds, including the razing and scraping and stripping to the bone of countless Indigenous territories the world over, whose unrecovered bounty funded the West’s lasting abundance — all while it set in motion the forces now threatening humanity’s extinction.
The moment to pay up is now. The wounds of the colonised have never been more openly displayed, the debt owed to them for building up Europe’s wealth never made clearer.
After all, the West, as Frantz Fanon wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, “is literally the creation of the third world.”
“Colonialism and imperialism have not settled their debt to us once they have withdrawn from our territories,” Fanon asserted.
“The wealth of the imperialist nations is also our wealth.”
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