The 2018 International Day in Memory of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was commemorated in Cameroon on 26 March through an event organized by UNIC Yaounde, UNESCO and the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy on: “Remember Slavery: Triumphs and Struggles for Freedom and Equality”, at the National Museum in Yaounde. Key highlights of the event included;
- Panel Discussion
This talk harped on the genesis, context, struggles for freedom/equality and human right violations during slavery era. The main objective was to exchange information on Slavery and UN’s actions and conventions to completely eradicate discrimination, prejudice and racism today with mostly History students from Secondary schools and Universities in Yaounde, the NGO; ‘Pan-African Youth network for a Culture of Peace’ working on Bimbia Slavery cultural heritage site and Human Rights.
Mr. Christian NDOMBI; Cultural Affairs Officer at UNESCO pointed that the history of slavery and Transatlantic slave trade is that of silence, by the perpetrators of the act and the victims, due to shame. He added that UNESCO launched the “slave route” Project in 1980 to break the silence, with in-depth studies undertaken on the practice of slavery, to let the world know the ills of the transatlantic slave trade in a bid to wipe out modern forms of slavery. Mr Ndombi further emphasized that youths are targeted to let them know and remember what transpired during the slave trade not for revenge but for quality education so as to prevent a recurrence of such heinous and inhumane acts.
UNICs Jean NJITA said the United Nations is committed to help young people learn from the history of slavery and transatlantic slave trade in order to help fight racism and prejudice, for countless stories of enslaved children, women and men (such as the recent story of black migrants sold as slaves in Libya) still remains untold. “On this Day, the United Nations urges us to reflect on the inhumane and humane capacity that lies within us” he added, further calling on all to take the commitments spelt out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations as a guide for the present and the future so that a more just and equitable world can be bequeathed to future generations.
Mrs. Dorothée Onguene; National Programme Officer at the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy presented a synopsis of the different UN Conventions such as the one on slavery adopted in 1926, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates that no one is to be enslaved or held in servitude. She reiterated that slavery has not completely disappeared, as it is still being practiced through force child labour; forced use of arms by children; sexual exploitation of girls and pornography; with girls being forced to work to settle parents’ debt, domestic slavery. Mrs Onguene stressed that the UN has appointed a special rapporteur on slavery, to report regularly on issues related to slavery and bring help to victims.
Professor Raymond Asombang; Director of the National Museum lauded UN’s continued strives to completely eradicate Slavery. As a way to support this UN initiative, the national museum has also setup an exhibition stand on slavery and the transatlantic slave trade to showcase what really happened during the transatlantic slave trade, with light thrown on the phenomenon in Cameroon such as Bimbia, Bangou and Bapa slave markets.
During the question and answer session, questions asked with satisfactory answers from panelists included:
- What is the real contribution of the UN towards eradicating aspects of slavery that still exist in Cameroon?
- What were the sanctions taken by the UN in relation to what happened in Libya?
- What has African states or Individuals done to eradicate this practice?
- Does the commemoration of slavery and transatlantic slave trade not instead open up old wounds?
UNIC Yaounde provided information kits to the over 105 participants at the event containing: the UNSG’s message, brief presentation of slavery and slave trade, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notebooks, storyline of the movie, etc… UNIC equally mobilized journalist to cover the event such as Ariane TV, Cameron Radio and Television, The Post Newspaper, Cameroon Tribune, Canal2 Television, Camer.be.
2. Poster Exhibition on the «A Legacy of Black Achievers»
Participants were led on a guided tour of the 25 posters exhibited at the entrance of the National museum in both English and French on the theme “A Legacy of Black Achievers”. UNIC’s Jean Njita presented a summary of the exhibition before delving into a poster by poster presentation, highlighting the achievements of each of the 23 notable personalities, and called on participants to emulate these models by working hard and excelling in their education, for they could achieve these things, then they also can.