A delegation representing President Ernest Bai Koroma and the people of Sierra Leone participated on Friday September 20, 2013 in ceremonies marking the 25th Anniversary of the Amistad Committee in New Haven, Connecticut. The delegation was led by the Minister of Information and Communication, Hon. Alpha Kanu, who was the keynote speaker at the Municipal Building event and the state banquet later in the evening.
The statement delivered by the Hon.Alpha Kanu at both occasions was so instructive and so eloquently delivered that newspapers in Connecticut and Boston carried the story this morning.
We bring you the Hon. Minister’s speech which has struck a chord in America.
“ALL WE WANT IS MAKE US FREE”
SPEECH DELIVERED ON THE OCCASION OF THE JUBILEE CELEBRATION OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE AMISTAD COMMITTEE Of NEW HAVEN CONNECTICUT, USA
By Hon. Alpha Kanu : Minister of Information & Communications Technology– Presidential & Government Spokesman, Sierra Leone
Friday September, 20th 2013
Congress woman Rosa De Lores of the United States House of Representatives
The Mayor, of the great city of New Heaven: Hon. John DeStefano
The president, Board of Aldermen, city of New Haven: Hon. Jorge Perez;
Chairman committee of the sister cities of New Heaven and Freetown ,
Supreme Court Justice of the State of Connecticut , Justice the Hon. Fleming L. Norcott.
The Hon. Toni Edmonds-Walker, Representative of the 93rd District of the state of Connecticut.
The Hon. Martin Looney, Senator of the 11th District of the state of Connecticut
The Hon. Toni Nathaniel Harp, Senator of the 10th District of Connecticut.
Members of the Amistad Historic Committee headed by its President the honourable Alfred L. Marder
Madam Vinnie Barrow, the distinguished and renowned actress and poet from the State of New York
The Ambassador of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United States of America, H E Bockarie Kortu Stevens,
The Deputy chief of Mission to the United States oF America, H E Alhaji Ibrahim Sorie Conteh
The Consul -General of Sierra Leone in New England, USA, the Hon. Mohamed Barrie.
Distinguished members and colleagues of His Excellency, Predient Ernest Bai Koroma’s delegation to the United States of America
Mr. Chairman, Hon. Alfred L. Marder
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me, on behalf of His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the dear profound apologies for his unavoidable absence at this August gathering to celebrate the freedom of the Amistad heroes 175 years ago.
The President would like me to inform you that. 25 years of existence for any person, animal, place or thing in the face of adverse political and changing environment is no mean feat.
He sends his heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Alfred L. Marder , the President and founder of the Amistad Committee of New Haven Connecticut and to all the members of that noble and philanthropic organization for having steered the Amistad’s course on an even keel to record such phenomenal success and recognition for the heroism demonstrated so long ago
In order to capture the importance H E President Ernest Bai Koroma and the rest of the nation of Sierra Leone attach to the memory of the Amistad heroes, the title of my presentation this morning is:
“Making the Case for Reparation for The Heroes of the Amistad Revolt”
In 1787, the celebrated English abolitionists, Granville Sharpe and William Wilberforce , advocating for the freedom of a captured slave Jonathan Stronge posed this famous question during his trial in the Supreme Court.
“Is it right to make a man slave against his will?”
The Lord Chief Justice in his ruling declared that Jonathan Stronge was a free man and that any slave setting foot in England was free.
So it was that slavery was abolished first in England and this cascaded down to the rest of the world notably here in the United States.
In a bid to find a settlement, on the African homeland for the freed slaves, a Province of Freedom was founded in present day Sierra Leone.
Missionaries and traders in legitimate goods flocked to Sierra Leone to convert the freed slaves to Christianity, educate them and teach them skills and trades .
Thus it was that by 1827, Fourah Bay College in Freetown was established as the first university in Africa south of the Sahara.
In. 1845, the CMS Grammar school was established for the education of boys.
Two years later, in 1847, the Annie Walsh Memorial school was founded for the education of girls.
The establishment of institutions of learning meant that the practice of slavery was already a thing of the past.
However, in February of 1839, 52 years after the Mansfield declaration in England, Portuguese slave hunters had the audacity and temerity to land on our shores to abduct a large group of people , our countrymen and women and shipped them to Havana, Cuba, a then notorius center for the the illegal slave trade, in gross violation of our sovereignty and in complete disregard for international law.. I say sovereignty because in 1839′ Sierra Leone was already a thriving colony under the British Empire. It had its own system of government , laws, police and all institutions of state. We even had the Granville Sharpe constitution of Sierra Leone , written in 1789. This abduction therefore, violated the constitution of Sierra Leone and all of the international treaties then in existence. Fifty-three Of our forebears were purchased by two Spanish planters and put aboard the Cuban schooner, the Amistad , for shipment to a Caribbean plantation. On July 1, 1839, the Africans seized the ship, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered the planters to sail to Africa.
On August 24, 1839, the Amistad was seized off Long Island, NY, by the U.S. frigate,the Washington. The planters were freed and the Africans were imprisoned in New Haven, Connecticut on charges of murder. Although the murder charges were dismissed, the Africans continued to be held in confinement as the focus of the case turned to salvage claims and property rights. President Van Buren was in favor of extraditing the Africans to Cuba. However, abolitionists in the North where we are here today , opposed extradition and raised money to defend the Africans. Claims to the Africans by the planters, the government of Spain, and the captain of the brig led the case to trial in the Federal District Court here in Connecticut. The court ruled that the case fell within Federal jurisdiction and that the claims to the Africans as property were not legitimate because they were illegally held as slaves. The case went to the Supreme Court in January 1841, and former President John Quincy Adams , the 6th President of the United States of America, argued the case for the Africans. He defended the right of the accused to fight to regain their freedom. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Africans, and 35 of them were returned to their homeland. The others died at sea or in prison while awaiting trial. Some of whom we honored this afternoon.
The case for the prosecution is this.
1. The Africans were abducted in a sovereign country 52 years after the abolition of slavery… This is a crime against humanity committed by citizens of Portugal. This makes Portugal a corespondent in the case.
2. The Africans were incarcerated unlawfully here in the United States under the false presences proferred by the rogue Spanish planters.
3. Spain joined in bringing the false action against the Africans. This means that Spain as a nation is liable for any damages the court may award.
4. 18!ofmthe Africans died while awaiting trial and Spain must take responsibility their deaths.
My submission this morning is that, through the help of former President
John Quincy Adams, may thenLord bless his soul, the Africans won the case.
Somebody must take responsibility and damages must be paid.
Spain, having joined the action must take the greatest responsibility and must be made to pay compensation both to the surviving family members and to the state of Sierra leone.
If we must move forward in an era of peace , democracy and respect for human rights and the sovereign rights of other nations, Spain must be made to offer reparations in order to close this sad part of recent human history.
I know tht in US Law, there is no statute of Limitations for murder, manslaughter, kidnap and crimes against humanity.
The treatment meted out to the Amistad Revolt Heroes by their captors and the overt support for these crimes by their home government make the case ripe for class action law suit. This might draw the attention of some human right lawyers here on the Umited States or anywhere else in the free world to take up the matter as a test case.
The debate is open. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions.
This is the United states of America, the land of freedom. Make the heroic Africans truly free even in their graves.
For ” ALL WE WANT IS MAKE U S FREE”"
I thank you.
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