V.I. Attorney General Denise George paid homage to our African heritage while participating in a recent conference aimed at collaboratively tackling transnational crimes, held in Accra, Ghana. The Ghanaian Government, through the Attorney General Alliance-Africa (AGA-Africa), invited AG George and five other state Attorneys General to Ghana, where the historic links of the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of years ago, ties the African country to the Virgin Islands. Among the conference activities, AG George participated in panel discussions, historical heritage tours, and Independence Day Celebrations in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom.
The conference entitled, “Tackling the Reality of Transnational Crime in Africa” was held on March 3rd to 4th in Ghana’s capital city of Accra. Attorney General George and five other U.S. state Attorneys General participated in presentations, workshops and panel discussions with their African counterparts, stakeholders and lawmakers, about new approaches to combat transnational crimes in Africa with a focus on regional and international collaboration. In addition to AG George, the Attorney General delegation included AG Aaron D. Ford of Nevada, AG Karl A. Racine of District of Columbia, AG Keith Ellison of Minnesota, AG Kwame Raoul of Illinois, and AG Letitia A. James of New York. The AGs led a panel discussion examining human trafficking/modern-day slavery highlighting international approaches to combat the problem. Established in 2016 by the Attorney General Alliance, AGA-Africa is a U.S.-based
organization that sponsored the conference and seeks to build and foster robust relationships with justice and law enforcement agencies and officials throughout Africa to support the rule of law and combat transnational criminal activity. AGA-Africa shares information, training, technology, and experience in the fight against transnational crime networks including human trafficking, wildlife trafficking, counterfeit drugs, corruption, money laundering, and cybercrime. AG George said, “Transnational crimes including human sex trafficking, cybercrime, corruption, financial fraud, and criminal enterprises have already hit this territory. While we have very strong and effective laws that serve as powerful tools in combating these types of crimes, as a territory we should not limit ourselves to merely a local approach, we must also think globally and collaboratively. Since we live in a world where a criminal transaction from within one jurisdiction to another can be made through the internet with just one click, effective enforcement to combat these crimes often demands collaboration and cooperation with various jurisdictions and even nations”.
The AGs also met with officials and dignitaries including the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addowho, Speaker of the of Parliament Michael O. Quaye, Parliament Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, Ghana Director of Public Prosecutions Yvonne Obuobisa, Deputy Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame, Zambia Director of Public Prosecutions Fulata Lillian Shawa-Siyunyi, Kenya Secretary of Public Prosecutions Dorcas A. Oduor, and U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan. AG George also engaged with the young, bright next generation of Ghanaian law students and prosecutors who attended the conference.
Among the conference activities, AG George went on historic heritage tours of Ghana that revealed the African country’s connections to Virgin Islands history. This included a guided tour of the British “Cape Coast Castle”, one of several ancient forts built by Europeans along the “Gold Coast,” now modern-day Ghana, for the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade” during the 1600s to 1800s. These so-called “castles” along the shores of the Ghanaian Atlantic coastline are equipped with dark dungeons and cells that the European countries used during that time to capture and hold millions of Africans in severe and inhumane conditions for months before their departure. The African captives who survived the cruelty of such captivity were then forcibly taken through the ”Door of No Return”, chained, stacked and crammed onto ships that sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from their homeland to a life of enslavement in Brazil, America, and the Caribbean. According to Ghanaian historic records, between 1694 and 1803 over 123,000 Africans were captured, held and transported from the Danish “Christianborg Castle” on the Ghana coastline, across the Atlantic Ocean to the “Danish West Indies” comprising of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Among them were Aqwamu people of Ghana, including members of the Aqwamu Royal Family, who were enslaved on St. John. In 1733, Aqwamu King June, Prince Aquashie, Queen Breffu, and other enslaved Akwamu nobles led the first and longest recorded slave revolt in North American history. The St. John insurrection lasted six months until April 1734, when the Danish regained control of St. John and many of the African revolutionaries committed suicide, some by jumping off a cliff to their death, to avoid being re-captured, tortured and re-enslaved.
The AGs also participated in the Republic of Ghana’s 63rd Independence Day celebrations held this year in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom. AG George and the delegation visited the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi where they met with King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the 16th King of the Ashanti Kingdom. King Tutu II was named after King Osei Tutu I, who was one of the founders of the Ashanti Kingdom in the late 1600s. The Ashanti Kingdom survives today as a state union with the Republic of Ghana and is historically renowned for its military prowess, wealth, architecture, sophisticated hierarchy, and culture. The AGs also attended the Independence Day parade at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, which featured elaborate cultural performances and demonstrations by the Ghana Armed Forces, Security Services, and schools.
AG George also toured visible relics of Ghana’s fight for independence at the Nkrumah Memorial Park and Mausoleum, the final resting place of Ghana’s first African-born prime minister and freedom fighter, Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was a prominent Pan-African organizer who led the fight against British colonialism to gain Ghana’s Independence in 1957. One of his notable quotes, “I am African not because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.” Nkrumah’s first daughter, Samia Yaba, politician and former Chairwoman of the Convention People's Party paid a surprise visit and addressed the AGs after they toured the Mausoleum.
The Conference coincided with the Republic of Ghana’s launch of ‘The Year of Return’ campaign in 2019 marking 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the United States and the Caribbean, and a way to urge descendants of Africans to return home, even for just a short visit. Thousands of African Americans made the trip since last year. This year, the campaign was changed to ‘Beyond the Return’, which was an underlying theme of the conference aimed at fostering collaborative economic and cultural relationships with the African diasporas throughout the United States and the Caribbean.
Of her experience, AG George said, “It was quite moving for me as a native Virgin Islander to actually walk the path of my ancestors through the horrors of the-Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade while embracing the rich culture of such a beautiful country they left behind. It’s great that we can now channel that history into positive relationships moving forward through the Attorney General Alliance as we partner in efforts to combat transnational crime, engage in cultural and economic collaborations and even encourage student educational and cultural exchanges and internships,” concluded AG George.