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Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation is the theme of this year's Commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In this feature, former Vice Chancellor of Cape Coast University, Professor Naana Jane Opuku Agyemang, is now a Minister of in the Ghanaian Government. She's also a scholar on slavery and the slave trade.

She says physical evidence of the slave trade still exists in the form of forts and castles.

Naana Jane Opuku Agyemang: You know that we have along our coasts well over 60 forts and castles in various stages of repair and disrepair and these have been well documented. So the physical manifestations are there.

NAR: Professor Opoku Agyemang says the horrors of the slave trade are not and will not forgotten.

Naana Jane Opuku Agyemang:  I didn't agree with the scholars that there was amnesia – that we had forgotten – I didn't think so. I just felt that memory has transmuted into other forms and we need to look at them, because I didn't think it was possible for such a thing to happen and for anybody to forget. I didn't think it was humanly possible for that to happen.

NAR: Professor Opoku Agyemang was particularly moved by the length of the suffering endured by Africans as the slave trade went on for 400 years.

Naana Jane Opuku Agyemang: You see when a people are under threat for 400 years- I don't know if we can imagine that – 400 years… Children were captured. If you go to Senegal, there's an island called Goree and there's a slave castle there – there's a dungeon for children. It's the most heart-breaking sight you can see.

NAR: The professor was asked for her reaction when visiting the dungeons, forts and other places where Africans were held captive before being shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas.

Naana Jane Opuku Agyemang: You know just thinking about the castles, they create a very sobering effect on you and going there, even today after all these hundreds of years have passed, I'm not going to say it makes me sad because that's a very weak word. You just feel bewildered. You just keep asking your self how could this have happened? How could this have happened for so long? Who did something to stop this? Did anybody do anything? So the more I go to these castles, the more questions I have. If you consider they were also your ancestors.

NAR: And, how has the slave trade impacted Africans on the continent today?

Naana Jane Opuku Agyemang: Number one, it is such a hugely negative part of our history, Even it's a very important history, it's negative. It dealt a huge dent into our pride – if people can really participate in so dehumanising each other, I think that's a huge dent. It has warped our culture. Where is that confidence you should have as an African when some of you have behaved in this way when your institutions have been compromised to allow such atrocities to continue for such an unimaginable length of time?. So there are many, many negative things.

NAR: And what about monetary compensation due for the suffering as Africans? Professor Opoku Agyemang was adamant

Naana Jane Opuku Agyemang: No I think money – that would be a big insult. I don't think it's about money. I think it's about freedom; true freedom to determine what you want to do; where you want to be without getting any encumbrance in your way, I think tat would be the greatest tribute and more importantly, to reunite with our families. Africans are now scattered everywhere.

Duration: 3’46″

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UN Radio Daily News Programme
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