The evolution of the
slave trade

trade system manifest itself in various forms and it is a widespread practise
across the globe. Slavery was a routine practised in the Mediterranean “(Davis,
2006, pg.4. 49 ). Thornton (1992, pg.111) alluded that transatlantic slavery
developed as a result of the normalisation of slavery which can be attributed
to the first purchase of enslaved Africans by the Portuguese on the coast of
Dahomey in exchange for gold on the Gold Coast”.This assertion is
elaborated by Minges (2004) Bartl (1995) who cited how native American sold
captured rivals to European and how they bought enslaved Africans from
Europeans”. David (1975) further argued that the development of slavery in
the ÙS reflected widespread practise in Europe, he further demonstrate this
assertion by making reference to  ”
Rousseau who argued about the justification for slavery for all forms of
ptivileges and inequality the 18th century “.Beckley (1998) highight ed
how the codification of channel slavery in the US was premised on both legal
and cultural precedents from Europe.”. The development of slavery took
place alongside other forms of coerced and unfreeze labor (Evans and Wilkins,

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The Conceptual Framework
of Structural violence

concept ” structural violence concept is important as it relates to
violence that is “exerted systematically” deprivation, economic
destruction,social exclusion, sufferings and harms instituted by government
around the world”( Farmer,2004:pg.304). It is peceived as a
“by-profuct of the slave trade which is characterised by the exploitation
of slaves by their masters, capitalistic economic system”, thereby
creating wealth for the masters whilst creating poverty for the slave
(victimhood). According to DuBois (1965), Rodney (1972), William (1944) argued
that “capitalism is a system that is the creation of the Western/Europe
that was born out of the “slave trade” and has been applied over the
entire globe. The political economy of the slave trade confirms how structural violence
was bedrock that resulted in unequal distribution of resources, how it produced
wealthier and healthier group and one group that is poorer and unhealthy.
According to Sylvain (2007)” structural violence is closely associated to
social injustices and social machinery of oppression created by the slave

economic system of capitalism was largely premised on the slave trade; hence
reparation issues for both the transformational justice reparation and transitional
justice reparation mechanism for the victims of structural violence produced by
the slave trade need be addressed in an open minded fashion considering its
complexity context and due to its depersonalization character.”(Farmer,
2004, Evans and Wilkins 2017, Burtle 2013).This assertion is substantiated by Burtle’s
analysis when he argues” that structural violence is subtle, often
invisible and has no specific individual that can be held accountable”(Burtle,
2013). Max Weber (2004) defined the state as the institutions that has
“monopoly of violence within a given territory”(Weber,2004) he was
employing violence in a usual sense of a direct act of force that contributes
to physical harm to another person. As structural violence is a systemic ways
whereby social structures disadvantaged individual, through their invisible
nature remedies discourses should be well balanced and consider all views and
the consequences of the slave trade to the different groups and kinds of
victims. It is also posits on the “harm that is instituted to individuals
and groups through the normalization of inequality, poverty and
underdevelopment. In the World conference (Declaration of the World Conference
against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related
Intolerance,   that took place in Durban,
South Africa on the 31 August-8 September 2001,”It was acknowledged and
profoundly regretted the massive human sufferings and the tragic plight of
millions of men, women and children caused by the slave trade, slavery,
colonialism and Apartheid, and were calls  made upon the concerned states in honoring the
memory of the victims of past tragedies”, and further recognize that these
historical injustices has undeniably contributed to poverty,underdevelopment,
social exclusion, marginalization, economic disparities, instability and
insecurities that impacted on the lives of many and intergenerational victims
“(World Conference,2001 ).

violence has an old character been used widely by a number of scholar’s,
academics and institutions. It was first coined by Johan Galtung in 1969 in his
work, ‘Violence, Peace, and Peace Research”. Galtung perceives this kind of
violence as a stubborn form of violence embedded into “structure, Institutions,
ideologies and histories”. A number of scholars that followed Galtung work
concur with the analysis that structural violence is a form of violence “that
is position and reposition our experiences that cannot be equated for by
liability -based models of urgency and force “(Galtung, 1969, pg.167,
Winter et al 2012). Structural violence is viewed as a subtle form of violence
as opposed to direct violence.Its covert character result in severe impact on
the social, economic ,political 
arrangement and it depicted through policies that result in a systematic
violation of human rights”( Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum,2014 ) The
consequences of structural violence “should receive attention and concentration
it deserve due to the  horrendous impact
it poses on the socio-economic rights framework and generational impact it tend
to have on its victims “( Moyo,2008). Premised on the structural violence
lenses on the human rights discourse develops a fundamental need for the
special protection of social and socio-economic rights that have been
overlooked in favor of civil and political rights”( Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO

(1983) argued that “structural violence should be regarded as the
‘killing, inflicting of psychological and physical harm or deprivation through
violent socio-economic or political structures”. Dr.Paul Farmer has
extensively dedicated researching and reviewing the concept of structural
violence, he describe it ” as a normal expression of a political and
economic framework  that is as old as the
slave trade”(Farmer,2004, and it is “social arrangement that
positions people in harms and suffering”(Farmer,2004), Farmer (2005)
further breaks down structural violence into race, gender,ethnicity  and socio-economic status,  and explains that each of the identities will
determine how structural violence will impact ones life”.He argues
“how racial classifications have been instrumental in depriving other
groups access of basic human rights “( Farmer,2005).

is important to acknowledge that when I talk about the victims of structural
violence created by the slave trade to understand it in terms of
psychological and cultural terms”(Farmer,2004). Structural violence
is a by – product of historical process of social, economic and political change
in this case slave trade”(Galtung, 1969). Structural violence of the slave
trade manifest in different type of poverty, inequalities, economic
deprivation, racism, ethnicity, lack of access to social rights health
care,education and social welfare”(Evans and Wilkins,201 ). Critical to
consider in the structural violence analysis is that poverty or lack of access
to health and education is generally blamed on the victim whereas the state is
responsible”(Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, 2014) this assertion is
supported by Dr.Paul Farmer in 2007 in his “victim-blaming theory of

discussion about how to remedy structurall violations of human rights by the
slave trade (Reparation for transitional justice and transformative justice

transitional justice reparation mechanism is categorised by the following,
truth Commission, trials, amnesties are the mainstream responding to periods of
conflicts under autocratic regimes. According to Mamdani (2014), Robins (2014),
Evans (2016) cited that transitional justice mechanism  tend to focus on individual victims and
perpetrators of human rights abuses with specific reference to torture,
killings and disappearing of victims”.They further argued that it is centered
on tackling narrow range of civil,political rights, socio-economic rights
issues and upon the structural and collective components of violence and
oppression resulting in different categories of victims and perpetrators and
different mechanism of remedy of these harms “(Mamdani,1996, Robins
2014,Evans 2016).

transformative justice reparation mechanism is categorised by apology, truth
telling, knowledge programme, cultural institutions with an intention of
facilitating the related programmes which might develop relationship between
African and the Caribbean states and individual “( Torpey,2006,31-39).However,
reparation for transformative are limited to a particular victim and benefit
group which might exclude others from eligibility”(Evans and Wilkins,2017).

there is no point of comparison between the justice mechanism as this tends to
deligitimise the call for reparations, Evans and Wilkins (2017)) what is
significant to the reparation debate is the following  recognitions firstly,” the slave trade as
it’s historical character determined the distribution of wealth, power and
privileged particularly for the powerful (master)whilst depriving the powerless
(the slaves), secondly, slave trade through structural violence distribute
poverty,racism, inequality,social exclusion to the slaves through policies that
were promulgated by the masters,  thirdly
how slave trade emerged and reflected wider social and economic structures
hierarchies that positioned underdevelopment and economic injustices”.


A call
for reparations

international attempts have been made for reparations for victims of slavery in
Africa by the African Diaspora around the world in 1992 when the Organisation
of African Unity convened the first Pan – African Conference comprised of
representatives from thirty countries which drafted a statement known as
&the international community & that recognized that there is a unique
and unprecedented moral debt owed to African people&(Feagin, 2004). That
was followed by &the British House of Lords in 1996 who debated on the
seriousness of the impact of slave trade in Africa which affected Africans, few
members argued for reparations to be made to colonies&( Feagin,2004).This
motion is defended by Lord Anthony Gifford when he argued against the
international law position which stated that all those who were responsible for
committing crimes against humanity including the slavery system to consider
reparations for the victims and their descendants &( Feagin,2004) further
argued that there was no statute of limitations for crimes against
humanity&( The Legal Basis of the Claims for Reparations, First Pan –
African Congress on Reparations, Abuja, Nigeria, 27-29 April 1993. In 1989 in
the US a call was made by John Conkers, Jr. Who acknowledged the fundamental
injustices, cruelty, brutality,  and inhumanity of the slave trade and
advocated for raising awareness through educating the public particularly the
white public on the subject matter. This cumulated into the setting of
Commission of Enquiry to Study Reparation Proposal for the  African
Americans Act, H.R.3745,101 st Congress 1st Session in 1989. It was
&commissioned to examine the institutions of slavery,  to acknowledge
the injustices, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of the slave trade system,
subsequently &de jure& and &de facto& racial and economic
discrimination against African – Americans&(  Feagin,2004).

Why reparations for the
slave trade?

claims are premise on the assertion that slave trade “has profound economic
harms, social harms, cultural harms and other harms which shaped the
socio-economic and economic realities of the majority of the victims of slavery
“(Evans and Wilkins 2017). According to CARICOM group in the Caribbean,
reparation claims are motivated by “the fact that the majority of economic and
social problems experienced by Africa and the Caribbeans can be traced back to
the slave trade “(Evans and Wilkins, 2017). They further argued that
“the profit of the slave trade stimulated the British  and European economic development, enabled
industrialisation, colonial expansion and enabled the vast wealth accumulation,
as opposed to deprivation and poverty enable mentioned experienced by the
Africans and Caribbeans who were slaves ” (Evans and Wilkins,2017) This
point is further substantiated by Nunn (2008) and Beckley (2013) where they
argued that the effects of those relationships continues to determine the
current economic realities”. A number of scholar’s have” identified
categories of harms ranging from economic, social, poverty, inequality, social
exclusion ,racism,race,gender,ethnicity as still influencing the current
socio-economic realities.”(Farmer, 2004, Galtung 1969, Sylvain 2007)


though there is overwhelming evidence of the interconnectness between the slave
trade and the current benefits and harms, reparation claims and debate are characterized
by frustrations, denial, anger and ridicule from those who are asked to
reparate. According to Muir et .al, (2015) claims of reparations are carrying a
lot of fury, agitation and questions like how can we pay for something we have
not done? Within the US context, the reparation debate is proving to be
racially divisive discursive, as the reparation for slavery are peceived to be
a domestic issue,whereas in the UK, reparation debates are centred on the
international dynamic with reference with former colonized countries. This was
depicted in the visit of the Prime Minister David Cameron in Jamaica in
September 2015; he was asked to join the reparation debate”(Evans and
Wilkins, 2017)

to this is the political dynamic between the state an example France continues
to operate as a colonial power, as France was asked to pay reparations for the
1066 Norman Invasion “( Evans and Wilkins,2017) The historical context of
the slave trade illustrate that these specific historical wrongs and their
legacies are still relevant and effective. As Farmer (2004) eluded that
structural violence is bedrock of slave trade that produced and reproduced
economic inequalities, racism, different kinds of oppression and other
prejudices”. The mentioned factors mixed and interactive with legacies of
the slave trade shaped the present day conditions of the victims and their
generations. The legacy of the slave trade is evidentiary in all aspects of the
victims, thereby demanding to be acknowledged and addressed”(Evans and
Wilkins, 2017).However, we need to be mindful of the complexities surrounding
the historical context on both the transformational reparation justice and
transnational reparation justice.



(2004) argues that “social inequalities are at the heart of structural
violence” Heggenhougen ( 2004 ) concurs with Farmer and point out
“that the inequitable Socio-political and economic structures are at the
root of diseases”. According to Farmer (2004 )”Structural violence is
not about the individual choice but is embedded into the bureaucratic, technocratic
systems and is applied to a number of people, hence there is a need to
understand how the systems builds and rebuild itself, neutralizing and
absorbing opposition and reform (Farmer, 2004,pg.4. 321).

prevalence of structural violence cannot be delineated from the systematic
exploitation that commenced with slavery “(Sylvain, 2007).The structural
violence of the slave trade resulted in the absence of resource ownership and opportunity
amongst the victims “(Muderedzi , 2017). It created social suffering amongst
the victims of the slave trade that destroyed the victim’s capabilites and
participation in their economic development which resulted in most victims
living in object poverty, inequalities unemployment while created wealth for
the slave masters” (Moyo, 2008) As “it’s character is physical and
psychological harm which resulted in exploitative and unjust social, political
and economic right” (Farmer, 2004). The reparation debate will assist in the
acknowledgement and addressing historical injustices for the victims of the
slave trade.

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