Sun | Apr 21, 2019

Anthony Gifford | Let’s fly to Africa – Kingston to Accra direct

Published:Tuesday | February 5, 2019 | 12:02 PM

Before I came to Jamaica, I had been inspired by Africa. My mentors had included Eduardo Mondlane and Amilcar Cabral, the founders of the liberation movements in Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.

In 1972, I marched with the guerilla forces 30 miles into Mozambique to visit the free villages which the movement had set up inside ‘Portuguese’ territory. Later, I had friendships in the government of Jerry Rawlings in Ghana. I had seen the awful doors of no return in the castles of Cape Coast and Elmina. I had witnessed the birth of democracy in South Africa. I had felt the joyful energy in the beat of African music.

So when fate brought me to Jamaica I did not feel like a stranger. I love Jamaica, and I am a proud citizen. I have been helped by many friends to understand the effects of the hideous rupture from Africa which the ancestors of most Jamaicans suffered. There are many who love their African-ness and many who hate it.

Many are ignorant of the history of Africa’s great civilisations and its more recent achievements. Some want repatriation and some just want to see this mighty continent of over 50 nations.

The distance from Kingston to Accra is 8,398 kilometres, only 868 km more than the distance from Kingston to London. About ten hours in flying time. But today, it will take you at least 24 hours to get there, as you have to make transit stops in the United States or London.

I have no knowledge of the aviation business, but if there were a great demand for such a journey, would it not be a brilliant venture? Could a side trip be organised to the new Museum of Black Civilisation in Senegal? It is my dream to see the first scheduled flight take off.

WARM WELCOME

Jamaicans and other Caribbean people would get a warm welcome. The Abuja Declaration, passed at the first Pan African Conference on Reparations, held in Abuja in 1993, stated that the conference “exhorts all African states to grant entrance as of right to all persons of African descent and the right to obtain residence in those African states, if there is no disqualifying element on the African claiming the ‘right to return’ to his ancestral home Africa”.

In November 2018, the governments of Ghana and Guyana signed an agreement designed to establish tourism, business and investment links in line with the African Union Declaration of the Global African Diaspora Summit held in 2012 in South Africa.

The government of Ghana has named 2019 as the Year of Return, and its minister of tourism, arts and culture was recently in Kingston. The one unanswered question is whether Ghana will do away with the need for a visa. I hope they will. Ghanaians may travel to Jamaica visa-free, and tourism from Ghana to Jamaica should be part of the package.

The United Kingdom (UK) was a leading participant in the transatlantic trade in Africans, which involved the kidnap of over 20 million people from their settled communities and their being transported across the Middle Passage into a life of slavery. It is part of CARICOM’s Ten Point Action Plan to secure funding for the repatriation of those who wish to return. It is a basic form of reparation, that after shipping so many millions from there to here, the UK should help to transport some of their descendants from here to there.

But we should not wait until a reparation settlement can be secured. We can lead the way by acting now. I believe that we in Jamaica and the Caribbean should be exercising our imagination and experimenting with programmes which can later be enhanced by reparation funding.

The reforging of ancient links between Africa and the Caribbean, through mutual exchanges and visits, leading to business, cultural and educational links, would do much to inform and uplift those who will take the plane from Kingston to Accra.

It would start to heal the trauma and fulfil the yearning of so many Jamaicans.

Entrepreneurs, are you interested in creating a Black Star airline? People, are you ready to be checked in?

Anthony Gifford is an attorney-at-law and a member of the National Council on Reparation. These are his personal reflections. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lgifford@cwjamaica.com.