At a press conference in Harlem In honor of America’s Black History Month, chairman H.E Jakaya Kikwete of the African Union apologized, on behalf of the nations represented by his organization, for the involvement of some elements of the African continent in the black slave trade.
“You cannot talk about the black slave trade” Kikwete said at a the Harlem offices of the Clinton Global Initiative, “without talking about the role of Africa. The vestiges of slavery hurt my people and it hurts your people,” Kikwete said, gesturing toward the mostly black Harlem audience.
The official apology was voted on by the leadership of the African Union in March 2007, to be finalized 11 months later, when everyone would have a better impression of who would emerge in the 2008 Election. In a 2007 press release titled “The Time is Come,” the African Union wrote that: “in an era where America has emerged as one of the dark continent’s best friends,” citing George W. Bush’s $5 billion-plus AIDS assistance package, “it’s time to put some of our darkest history to bed.”
“We at the African Union believed that, at a time when Americans might have an opportunity to elect the first black president, we had to built the ties that bind between the Motherland and your land,” Kikwete said, President Clinton tugging on his jacket and growing noticeably red in the face.
“I’ve been called the ‘first black president’ before, and I think there’s some truth to that,” said Clinton. “I mean, I could’ve put my office space anywhere and I picked Harlem, for chrissakes. To be able to bring people together like this has been a pleasure,” Clinton said immediately after the remark about Obama.
Said President Bush, in a video taped for the ceremony: “Some of my best friends are black. It’s good to see them clear up that whole slavery thing, finally.”
Though a major talking point amongst the African delegation, to Clinton’s chagrin, presidential candidate Barack Obama was not present at the ceremony. Obama claimed, through a spokesperson, that he had been give “extremely late notice” of the ceremony, “almost as if someone didn’t want him there.”
Clinton rebuked the claims that Obama’s absence at the ceremony was part of any designs on his part. “My meetings are open to everybody. What, does [Obama] need an engraved invitation?”
Hillary Clinton was on the campaign trail in rural Virginia in advance of the Potomac Primaries on February 12 primary in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, but said, that she “hoped this would motivate former slave states in America that haven’t apologized” to match the Africans and do the same.
“We will be watching the 2008 Election with great interest,” said H. E. Jean King, incoming African Union spokesman who previously served as the bridge between the Union and its diverse and sundry political contacts in the United States . “We are looking for allies in our struggle against AIDS. President Bush has been a great partner in this regard and we can only hope that whoever wins the nomination will continue in Bush’s footsteps.”
Jean King’s contacts in America include the reverend Al Sharpton, who was on hand and hosted a media appearance with King afterwards.
When asked whether he would be seeking reparations from the Union for acknowledgement of a major role in a slave trade he has vilified for decades, Sharpton looked his African counterpart up and down and remarked that he “hadn’t thought of that,” but, “you know what? Yeah. Sure. Why not?”
Sharpton then announced that he would be visiting the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia sometime within the month. to hash out an arrangement for slavery reparations.
“We cannot let another Black History Month pass without an agreement that will help black Americans make up for 400 years of lost time,” Sharpton said, declining to elaborate further since “I just came up with the idea when you mentioned it.”
Wrote columnist Bob Herbert in The New York Times, highlighting the difference between change and growth: “It’s no longer hyperbole to say that Barack Obama’s emergence has changed politics – and now at the international level.…Sharpton’s upcoming trip to the Motherland is one of the most ironic signs of “progress” we’ve seen in some time: when an African-American minister can shake down African statesmen for crimes that the statesmen didn’t commit and the minister didn’t suffer, things have indeed changed, though I can’t say it’s all been for the better.”