Africa Versus the West in the Court of Reparations


  • Muyiwa Falaiye


When Alex Haley’s Roots was first serialized on Nigerian television in the 1970’s, I was too young to appreciate it beyond seeing it as the story of slave trade. On the one side were the whitemen on a savage mission of capturing as many slaves as possible to work their ever expanding plantations. On the other side were the “innocent, peaceful and primitive” Africans unaware of other civilizations. The whitemen came and changed this scenario. They were “rapacious, brutal and callous”. Africa lost many generations of young people, perhaps its most important resource. The result has been a retardation, in some cases a total stagnation, of the hitherto advancing African civilizations. For these reasons, Africans of our time are demanding reparations for atrocities committed hundreds of years ago. The timing of the return of Roots to the Nigerian Television screen in 1992 was anything but a coincidence(1). It clearly shows how far television can be used to whip up national sentiments in support of the crusade for reparations for the ‘injustices’ done Africa and Africans during over four hundred years of slavery and slave trade. Roots is a powerful recounting of those terrible days. No one in their right mind can refuse to condemn the obnoxious trade in human beings, whatever the reasons for it.