JAMAICA OBSERVER – Rumours are swirling in Jamaica’s indigenous community that reparation money is already here for those people who believe they have been wronged by colonial enslavers.
Moreover, questions are being raised in some circles as to how the money will be distributed among the country’s indigenous peoples who should have claim to compensation.
“In light of the fact that the Jamaican State has not recognised any indigenous people officially — if there are no indigenous peoples officially in Jamaica — then any reparations money would go straight to the Government,” an inside source said.
The Jamaica Observer has not been able to ascertain that reparation money has arrived in Jamaica. However, activities involving the two main indigenous groups, the Tainos and the Maroons, have stepped up, including contacts with international groups focused on the issue of reparations.
The source, who did not want to be named, claims that the Maroons may be positioning themselves to collect on those monies, pointing to their recent alignment with the London-based Ateker International Development Organisation’s (AIDO) Network International which is a non-profit organisation with chapters and affiliated traditional leaders and kingdoms from several countries in Africa.
Established in 2018, the organisation’s objective, among others, is to uphold the spirit of Ubuntu (humanity or human rights) and thus promote social inclusion across all communities everywhere. It has since widened its reach, with chapters in Germany, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, USA, and the UK. “So is it that the Government is saying that there is no indigenous people so they can receive it officially or is it the case that the Maroons on this AIDO network are positioning themselves so that they would officially receive the money,” the source questioned.
“Are they reinforcing their status as indigenous and first peoples and now aligning with the African kingdom because they want to ensure that the money comes to the true indigenous which are the Maroons and the Tainos? Because both have been publicly declared by the AIDO network that they’re founders,” the insider told theObserver.
“They are likely working with the AIDO Network to ensure that when the rumoured reparations money is being dispersed that it will not go into the Government coffers because they refused to acknowledge them as indigenous, but will go to everybody who now seems to fall under this African network,” the source speculated.
On January 8 this year, leaders from the Maroon communities of Jamaica met with the AIDO African Royal delegation in a historic unity meeting at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
According to a press release issued by the AIDO Network on January 19, the leaders came together to address a number of challenges within Maroon communities with the purpose of forging ahead in unity.
Although the press release did not mention talk of reparations, vice chancellor of UWI, Mona, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who hosted the meeting and is a member of the AIDO Network, called for the “recognition of the Tainos and the Maroons as the first people of Jamaica – the first people in the context of slavery, the first people in the context of colonisation; they are the ones who put Jamaica on the road to modernity, on the road to democracy, on the road to freedom”, and they should be celebrated for their tremendous contribution.
He argued that “Jamaica has to find a creative legal strategy, an imaginative, constitutionally perceptive strategy to recognise these first principles and to craft a constitution that places at the centre, the sovereignty of the Maroon people of Jamaica, the true founders of modern-day Jamaica”.
“I hope the Jamaican people will dig deep into their history, dig deep into their spirit and their consciousness and push the Maroons into the vanguard to continue their journey into the future of liberty and justice,” he said.
Professor Beckles, who was enstooled Papa Osikol II in the AIDO Network, recognised the meeting between the African royals and the Maroons as a “historic moment” and paid tribute to the heroic struggle of the Maroons which he said represented the interests of Africans in Jamaica and the Caribbean for hundreds of years with dignity.
“The Maroons and Tainos were the first to consolidate freedom, equality and justice in the hills of Jamaica, demonstrating a new way to live in resistance to slavery and put Jamaica on the road to freedom and democracy,” he said.
Much of the meeting focused on the Maroons and strengthening their unity and advocating for their rights, which the source said, is one of the reasons to believe “there is something brewing in the alignment with the AIDO network”.
In addition, several members of the Caricom Reparations Commission, chaired by Prof Beckles, are also members of the AIDO network.
Discussions centred around “sovereignty, legitimacy, and authority, with a passionate and restorative justice-centred plea to recognise the Maroons’ inalienable human rights”.
Interestingly, Paramount Chief of the Sovereign State of Accompong, Jamaica, Richard Currie, who has been installed as Papa Odwe II in the AIDO Network, urged recognition of the authority of the Accompong Maroon Community as well as their inalienable human rights, and the responsibility to ensure representation for all indigenous people in conversations about the new Jamaica.
Of note is that the meeting was said to be attended also by the Paramount Chieftainess and Queen of the Maroons Gamaang Gloria Simms who has been previously harshly criticised by Currie, a sign that rapprochement is being sought.
Discussions also highlighted the need for the inclusion of the Maroon communities in processes for constitutional reform, international recognition, actionable deliverables, and creative interventions for Jamaican governmental constitutional reform that respectfully and strategically include Maroon communities from inception moving forward.
The meeting agreed on follow-up initiatives and next steps, including organising a three-day symposium during 2024 at The UWI to highlight and document maroon history; advocacy for recognition of the Maroon’s pivotal place in Jamaica’s history and adequate consultation with the Maroons in the process of constitutional reform; launching a campaign to correct historical injustices with accurate refocusing and rebranding of the maroon legacy and narrative within Jamaican history.