..For Their Role In Slavery And Colonialism
Yesterday at Hague, in the Netherlands, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte apologized officially for the role the Dutch played in slavery for 250 years. Activists in the Netherlands have been at the heels of the Dutch government for sometime now over the country’s role in slavery.
In his 20- minute speech which took place at the National Archive before invited audience, the Dutch Prime Minister said, “Today I apologize” as the audience remained silent. He further said, ” We know there is no one good moment for everybody, no right words for everybody, no right place for everybody” and same reported by The Time on their news outlets.
As a descendant of Ahanta people from Ghana whose forefathers and ancestors bore the brunts of slavery and colonialism, I insist that apologies and official speeches can’t wash the sins of slavery and colonialism. It can’t, especially with the case of the Dutch and what they did to the Ahanta people in Ghana.
If I sit down and look at what happened to us as people in the hands of the Dutch, I weep terribly. It still hurt like yesterday if I look at the happenings in Ahanta currently despite the fact that slavery and colonialism may have physically ended many years ago.
It may have ended many years ago but its effects and defects live on, and its ramifications are still widespread in Ahanta. For Ahanta, we are still living by the relics of slavery and colonialism even in these present times in Ghana, and that is sad. We have lost everything including our sense of pride, dignity and honour to the colonialists.
They left behind colonial structures that continue to rob us of our common good. Sadly, many of us instead of departing from the old relics of slavery and colonialism, we are still perpetuating them because we have the tips of our aprons tie to the Europeans who are still controlling us remotely.
Today, even the Ahanta language which identifies us one people is on the verge of getting extincted due to atrocities of slavery and colonialism. We can no longer identify ourselves as one people as we are sharply divided among ourselves and also frost with needles litigations bequeathed to us by the colonialists.
We still haven’t extricated ourselves from the shackles and chains of slavery and colonialism as far as our mentality is concerned. We are still living the wishes of the colonialists and the slave masters and continuously plunging Ahanta into the doldrums.
Anytime I ponder on the atrocities of European invasion in Ahanta, tears drips from my eyes and I see nothing that can be used to compensate us as people for the crimes committed against us by the Europeans, especially the Dutch. How can we reverse the hands of time and correct the wrongs of slavery and colonialism perpetrated on the people of Ahanta by the Dutch with apologies? No way!
The Dutch were ruthless in Ahanta and ripped us off everything including our dignity and sense of pride as people and no amount of apologies can repair that. They did a lot of evils to us as people hence It is the reasons why I see apologies as non-starter if we want to talk about evils of slavery and colonialism in Africa, especially in Ahanta.
To me, apologies are mere drops in the ocean as far as slavery and colonialism in Ahanta by the Dutch is concerned. Apologies can’t settle the scores of slavery and colonialism and its evils perpetrated on Ahanta by the Dutch. We need to go beyond and hold to the Dutch government accountable by ensuring that Ahanta is restored in a very dignified manner.
Less is said about slavery and colonial evils committed against Ahanta by the Dutch just to keep slavery and colonial crimes in Ahanta under the carpet but in actual fact, the Dutch started all their colonial activities in Ahanta before extending it to other parts of the world.
They exploited Ahanta greatly and made a lot of wealth in Ahanta through looting and stealing and we can’t just accept apologies and allow these issues to slide. In the case of Ahanta, I expect the Dutch government to take active steps to restore Ahanta to its former glory and dignity. Ahanta people do not only need apology from the Dutch government but rather much more of restitutions, reparations and restoration.
Just to take you through a little bit of history and how the Dutch ended up in Ahanta, the Portuguese were first Europeans to arrive in Ahanta in the later 14th century for missionary works and trade. Soon after them, the Dutch followed suit and quickly dislodged the Portuguese from Ahanta and established themselves as one of major colonial powers in the Gold Coast, now Ghana.
In 1565, the Dutch signed the Butre Treaty with Ahanta chiefs and made Ahanta a Dutch protectorate. The terms and conditions of the treaty were supposed to be friendly in nature, and also meet the interests of both Ahanta and Netherlands but sooner than later, the Dutch started violating the terms and conditions of the Butre Treaty and actively engaged in slavery and other atrocities in Ahanta.
Fast forward 1830s, Badu Bonso II assumed the reigns of Ahanta as the king and felt that the Dutch have had too much interferences in the affairs of Ahanta and it was a time that a stop be put to it. It led to several altercations between Badu Bonso II and the Dutch as he was bent on driving the Dutch away from his lands.
Consequently, wars ensued between Ahanta and the Netherlands and in 1838, under the instructions of William II of the Netherlands, a full military expedition led by Gen. Jan Verveer invaded Ahanta from Hague, burned all Ahanta towns from Takoradi to Cape Three Points leaving Ahanta in a complete desolation and annihilation.
Badu Bonso II himself was captured, hanged to death, and after which they removed his head and placed it in formahyde jar and took it to Elimina before taking it to the Netherlands. Other other royals were rounded up with him and in later days at Elmina, 5 of them were also hanged to death.
12 of the royals were placed onboard ship to the Dutch Indies and some 36 others were made slaves to work on coffee plantations at Elmina, and in 1871, the Dutch sold all their trade possessions in Ahanta to the English and left Ahanta after some 200 years of exploitations.
The head of Badu Bonso II got lost until later in 1997, it was discovered by Arthur Jappin, a Dutch author and in a very undignified manner, the head of Badu Bonso II was returned to Ghana in 2009 and till today, the head has remained in Accra instead of returning it to Ahanta where he was killed and his head was taken away.
For me as a native of Ahanta, the story of Badu Bonso’s head is continuation of slavery and colonial evils and injustices which can’t be pacified by apologies and speeches by Dutch government. The burning of Ahanta towns by Dutch mercenaries leading to the displacement of Ahantas can’t be corrected by mere apologies and speeches. It goes beyond that.
May be I should say that the apologies are rather refreshing our minds on what the Europeans, particularly the Dutch did to us as Ahantas. We need to be fully compensated through restitutions, reparations and restorations.
Apologies are not enough.
By: Nana Kwesi Quayson I
Atwimanlehinɛ to Tumivlɔ Badu Bonso, Ahanta Traditional Council & the Diaspora.
Chairman, Ghana Union UK.