The CARICOM Reparations Commission in collaboration with The University of the west Indies (UWI), The Centre for Reparation Research (CRR) and The P.J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy (PJPIACA) organised a one-day Symposium at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica, as part of the schedule of activities during the visit of the AIDO African royal delegation to Jamaica, 27 February – 6 March 2023. The conversation which was delivered through 3 panels, a roundtable and a plenary address, streamed live on UWItv, was centered around the theme “Reparations & Royalty, Africa & Europe: Exploding myths, Empowering truth”. 

The Symposium provided the opportunity to hear from descendants of African royalty about pre-colonial societies in Africa and the changes brought by trading in enslaved Africans; to discuss the roles of African and European royal families and other elites in the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans (TTA) and the chattelization of Africans. The engagement also sought answers to questions such as: a) who should bear the major responsibility for initiating the capturing and trading of Africans and their use as chattel enslaved on plantations? b) Who benefitted economically, socially, and politically from the TTA, the establishment of plantations and exploitation? c) what was the extent of resistance to these crimes against humanity on both sides of the Atlantic? d) who should pay reparations and in what forms? 

During the Western campaign to legalise the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans in the 19th century, traders and their allies argued that African commercial and political interests were their business partners. According to Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI) and Chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, “Since then, this perspective has gained global traction, becoming the dominant narrative, particularly in the Caribbean and the Americas. Though the evidence to debunk this narrative, and to contextualize its significance is considerable, it has not gained anywhere near the level of advocacy and academic representation.” 

Vice-Chancellor Beckles noted that The UWI was “honoured as a university community to take this responsibility for the reuniting of the Royal Highnesses with the African people of the Caribbean.” During the opening session on March 2, as he provided historical context on the relationship between Europeans and Africans, he emphasized that it is critical to examine the two sides of the equation, “While the royal families of Europe were organising their armies, building their corporations and establishing structures for the destruction of societies in Africa, so as to secure enchained and enslaved labour, the royal families of Africa were on the receiving end of that violence.” In his plenary presentation, Vice-Chancellor Beckles underscored, “No group of people has been more denigrated by the historians of Europe than the Kings and Queens and nobles of Africa within the context of colonization.”

His Highness Paul Jones Eganda, Global Chief and President, Ateker International Development Organization (AIDO) Network stated, “We are greatly honoured to be invited by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.” Addressing the various interest groups and members of the audience in-person and online he said, “We work as a team. We have approximately 657 kingdoms and cultural institutions that are affiliated with us. These groups constitute what we call the AIDO Royal Community.” Highlighting the purpose of the mission, he said, “this royal delegation here today has travelled to Jamaica with one objective, to demonstrate to you, our dear family of Africa in the Caribbean, that we are not a race created as slaves. The fact is that we have a rich, proud, living history of royalty in Africa that still exists today which we represent here.” He affirmed, “Reparations justice has to take place, and Africa has to join in.”

The closing Roundtable titled “African Royalty and Diaspora Reconnection: Towards a Global Africa” was moderated by Dr. Hilary Brown, Programme Manager, Culture and Community 

Development, CARICOM Secretariat, and featured presentations by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles; His Highness Paul Jones Eganda; Her Royal Majesty, Queen Cynthia Khumalo Mzilikazi III, Royal Mzilikazi Kingdom (Zulu Nation), South Africa and the Most Hon. Percival James Patterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica and Statesman in Residence at the PJ Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy.

Other members of the AIDO royal delegation who were among the featured speakers at the event, were His Royal Majesty, Dr Robinson Tanyi, King of Tino Mbu Cameroon and President of the African Indigenous Governance Council (AIGC);  Her Highness Queen Grace Eganda, the Programme Director AIDO, Her Royal Highness, Princess Dr. Nikiwe Bam, President African Young Indigenous Leaders (AYIL) and AIDO Culture and Heritage Ambassador, South Africa; and H.E. Ambassador Ireneo Omositson Namboka, Vice President AIDO, Vice Chancellor, African Open University Switzerland, Geneva.