I extend heartfelt greetings to all Guyanese, but especially our African-Guyanese community, on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2023. The 185th anniversary of the formal abolition of slavery is an occasion to recall the heroic resistance and resilience of our African ancestors. They laid the foundation for our country’s freedom.
It is that freedom and African achievement that we celebrate today, Emancipation Day. As we do so, let us never forget that this freedom was attained at a high price. Never again must the human heart become as cold and callous as to condone human enslavement. African enslavement was abhorrent and represents one of the darkest chapters in human history and a permanent stain on our civilization.
My government remains committed to the struggle for reparations for the crime of African enslavement. We demand that those who were complicit in and who profited from the trade in captive Africans and African enslavement pay just reparations.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been at the forefront of demanding reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans. Within the region, there has been a concerted effort to seek both the acknowledgement of and redress for the injustices inflicted as a result of the slave trade and slavery.
It is heartening to note that the recent EU-CELAC summit took a significant step forward by acknowledging slavery as a crime against humanity. Such acknowledgement is crucial to further pressing our demands for reparations.
Emancipation in 1838 did not end oppression. Freed Africans continued to face tremendous challenges, which they confronted with admirable resolve and resourcefulness. As such, Emancipation Day also heralds the significant contributions of African-Guyanese, which include the development of the peasantry, the emergence of the Village Movement, and the pioneering role of Africans in local government and education. African achievements have touched all spheres of life.
Today, as we celebrate Emancipation Day 2023, let us pay tribute to those who endured unimaginable hardships, yet resisted. Let us recall the sacrifices of our African ancestors who emerged strong and resolute in the face of such a barbarous system which gave no legal recognition to them. Let us celebrate their contributions to shaping the Guyana we know today.
The greatest tribute we can pay to the struggles and sacrifices of African Guyanese is to build a free, prosperous and more inclusive nation. In this regard, I want to assure all African Guyanese that my government is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that they will never be politically or economically marginalised.
African Guyanese will share in the bounty that will flow from Guyana’s transformative development now and in the future. They, along with all others, will have a stake in national development and in the governance of our country. The One Guyana agenda is aimed at building such a prosperous and inclusive future.
However, I am mindful that there are forces inside and outside of our country who, for selfish reasons, continue to stoke division and engender fear, mistrust and suspicion. As I have done in the past, I want to encourage Guyanese to continue to reject these attempts and expose the agitators of disunity and fear-mongering who threaten our nation’s cohesion and progress.
Emancipation Day was a milestone in our country’s history. As we celebrate the anniversary of this historic day, let us recommit to working to create a brighter future where resilience and achievements resonate in every corner of Guyana, inspiring generations, present and future, to unite in building a nation that embodies the spirit of freedom, prosperity and inclusivity.
Happy Emancipation Day!