Cape Verde President Advocates Diplomatic Discussions on Colonial Reparations

LISBON – President Jose Maria Neves of Cape Verde has called for governments to engage in discussions on colonial reparations behind closed doors, citing concerns over rising right-wing populism that could hinder public debate on the issue.

In an interview with news site Brasil Já, published online on Wednesday, Neves highlighted the challenges posed by extremist and xenophobic groups in former colonial powers like Portugal, where public discourse on reparations could exacerbate political polarization.

“While there are no political conditions to publicly discuss these questions at the moment,” Neves stated, “among governments, it is necessary to discuss these matters.”

Neves emphasized the importance of finding diplomatic channels for dialogue to avoid fueling the growth of extremist groups while still addressing historical injustices. He suggested that solutions could be developed to facilitate conversations without inflaming tensions.

His remarks come in the wake of Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s acknowledgment of his country’s responsibility for crimes committed during transatlantic slavery and the colonial era, sparking a national debate and drawing criticism from right-wing parties.

Portugal’s colonial history, spanning over four centuries, involved the forced enslavement and exploitation of millions of Africans in territories such as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and others.

The debate over reparations for slavery and colonialism remains contentious, with opponents arguing against holding contemporary states accountable for historical atrocities. However, advocates stress the need for addressing the enduring legacy of exploitation and systemic racism.

Neves’ call for diplomatic discussions underscores the complexity of addressing historical injustices while navigating contemporary political realities, reflecting broader global conversations on reparations and social justice.