LONDON – Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the African slave trade and expressed deep sorrow for Britain’s role, but stopped short Monday of offering an apology or compensation for the descendants of those victimized by it.
Activists are pressuring Britain to offer an apology, and reparations, for its role in slavery before it marks the 200th anniversary of the law that banned the country’s participation in the Atlantic slave trade.
Blair wrote in an article in the New Nation newspaper that it was right to recognize the active role Britain, its ports and its industry once played in the trafficking of human beings.
“I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was, how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition, but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened,” Blair wrote in the black community newspaper.
Race issues continue to afflict multicultural Britain, with periodic outbursts, such as riots in the central city of Birmingham last year, laying bare smoldering tensions stemming from inequities in education and the workplace.