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African Tour Guides Recount Painful History Of Slave Trade

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Kakanakou Igor is looking for tourists in the West African nation of Benin. The tourist guide with a specialization in African civilization is at the historical Slave Road in the city of Ouidah, known for its role in the Atlantic slave trade from the 17th to 19th century.

Only a handful of tourists visit these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On busy days, tourist guides can earn more than $500 a month by recounting the painful history of their ancestors.

"The city of Ouidah, in particular, is an ambassador for our country. When we talk about Benin abroad, we refer to this town for the important role it played in the slave trade, it is our historic town and is full of tourist sites that cannot be found elsewhere," he told Anadolu Agency ahead of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade observed on March 25.



The slave trade uprooted 15 to 20 million Africans who were sequestered and forcibly dragged to the Americas and the Caribbean for 400 years in indescribable misery, as were their descendants, according to UNESCO estimates.

The trade which ended 200 years ago, left a significant portion of the language, culture, and religion of millions of enslaved Africans destroyed, while the departure of so many people from Africa disrupted the continent's economy and, according to some researchers, put Africa at a permanent disadvantage compared to other parts of the world.



Kakanakou, who dreamed of a career as a language teacher, realized in 2016 that he could guide tourists passing through his native village of Zougbondji, through which slaves were transported.

"I like to talk about this history. Many tourists come here to learn about it. I found it painful when I learned about it, but by dint of telling it, I overcame the pain and realized that the responsibilities are shared in this great story. From then on, talking about it no longer revolts me," he said.

He finds that such a vestige has real importance for tourism, which is the second national source of foreign exchange earnings and the third-largest creator of jobs in the country.


Senegal's small island of Goree has also been witness to the Atlantic slave trade, according to UNESCO.

Throughout the day, tourists go back and forth mixing with a population of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants.

The island has many points of interest, in particular the "house of slaves," a pink building that is hard to miss.

"It is the favorite place of foreigners and Senegalese," said Mahmoud Sarr, a Senegalese tourist guide.

He appreciates this place for the emotion it arouses in tourists.

"Tourists like to hear the history of slavery in this place and they get very sad to see conditions where slaves were locked up and the tools that were used to transport them. It is very painful for some, but it is also important to know the history," explained the young guide.

He believes that visiting Goree also enriches education in Senegal culturally, which is why "schools organize school excursions there regularly.


In Cameroon, Bimbia a port city on the Gulf of Guinea, also served the slave trade.

However, in recent days there has been a security crisis in the region and tourists are off-limits.

"The area is not secure because of the Anglophone crisis that shakes the two large Anglophone regions of the country. So we do not visit it," a representative of Camertour, a local tourism agency, told Anadolu Agency by phone. He said he did not want to be named.

Nevertheless, he added that it is important to work to make this place accessible because it is part of the history of their African ancestors who suffered from the slave trade.

"These types of sites are more coveted than beaches or waterfalls. It is also the case for the island of Manoka which houses the first colonial prison here in Cameroon. People go there weekly. These are the most important places to keep in tourism,” he said.

Source: AA


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