“Slavery is theft—theft of a life, theft of work, theft of any property or produce, theft even of the children a slave might have borne” — Kelvin Bales.
Slavery is believed to have attained its peak on the African continent in the last three centuries. During the slave trade, many indigenes of the continent were denied their basic human rights, freedoms and dignity by the slave merchants.
It is, therefore, not surprising that several years after slavery, Africans continue to apportion some of its underdevelopment to the activities of slavery.
It must be put on record that Ghana is noted in the world for the pivotal role it played in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. This is partly due to the country’s strategic geographic location.
Ghana was used principally by most of the slave merchants during the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade as the shipping point, where slaves were shipped overseas.
It is also important to state that almost all the 10 regions in the country have some slavery monuments or relics.
Salaga, the administrative capital of the East Gonja District in the Northern Region, is one of the areas noted for the role it played during the slave trade in northern Ghana.
According to information sourced from the Internet, for more than three centuries, that is, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, Salaga was one of the most important market centres in West Africa where they traded in everything: kola, beads, ostrich feathers, animal hide, textiles and gold.
However, from the 18th to the 19th century, Salaga became the biggest slave market where humans were sold or exchanged for cowries. The town became a well-known slave market in the sub-region.
The Salaga Slave Market has been reduced to a parking space and is used for business activities
The popularity of the Salaga Slave Market motivated me to visit the town and see how the place looks like. It was on Thursday, July 14, this year.
It had rained in the morning when I got to Salaga. The weather was cold. Patches of water sat on most parts of the potholed grounds around the centre of the town.
With motorbikes and tricycles shuttling in and out of town, splashes of red-muddy water continued to sprinkle on the nearby surroundings.
From where my car was parked, I saw three men sitting close to a baobab tree on which a metallic signpost leaned.
Both legs of the signpost were crooked.
The signpost, with a white background, had an inscription in red and blue-black ink that read: “Welcome to Salaga Slave Market”.
It was my first time in the town so I didn’t know where the slave market was located. But unfortunately, the signpost had no marks on it for first-time visitors to locate the slave market.
The three middle-aged men were seated on a broken table with their backs leaned against a wall.
There were other people sitting under the baobab tree.
Just at the back of the baobab tree was a market and a lorry park that were competing for space. The shouts of the traders at the market and the driver’s mates painted an ambiance of a busy business environment.
There was also a wooden kiosk at the back of the baobab tree. Motorbikes and sacks of goods had also been packed close to the tree.
The entrance of the Salaga slave cemetery
I got down from the vehicle and walked to the men to enquire about the Salaga Slave Market. I was told that I was at my destination, I was standing right at the slave market. I heaved a sigh of relief.
The Salaga Slave Market is located at the centre of the town. According to oral history, the slave market was conducted under the baobab tree although the original tree died some years ago.
The current tree was planted to maintain the historical relevance of the area.
Apart from the slave market, the town could also boast other slavery monuments and relics, including the Salaga Slave Cemetery, slave warehouse, drinking wells, chains, iron shackles and spears.
The slave warehouse, for instance, is believed to have been used as a temporary place where the slaves were housed before they were transported to the coastal areas for shipment by the slave merchants.
The wells, also believed to have been dug by the slaves, served as places from where the slaves drank and bathed.
One of the Salaga slave wells
It is obvious that the place has been abandoned by the East Gonja District Assembly and the Ghana Tourism Authority, as well as the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts.
That area could be developed to attract tourists and earn the country and the assembly some revenue.
Many communities around the world have generated a lot of revenue from their tourist monuments, but in the case of the East Gonja District, the story is different.
The Salaga Slave Market, and the slave cemetery, slave wells and other important slavery relics have been abandoned and reduced to nothing worth seeing.
All the authorities and stakeholders who have a role to play in reviving the Salaga Slave Market must act quickly to take advantage of the oppportunities the area presents to the local economy and the country in general.
Source: radioxyzonline.com/ files from graphic