"I just feel like I am home," was how Dr Robinson Tanyi described his arrival in Jamaica as he and three other African leaders strolled through the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on Tuesday, as they were greeted with the playing of drums.
The four — Tanyi, Ambassador Ireno Omositson Namboka, Queen Cynthia Khumalo Mzilikazi III, and Princess Dr Nikiwe Bam will be among high-profile participants at a one-day symposium on Thursday at The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Mona campus, being held under the theme 'Reparation and royalty, Africa and Europe: Exploding myths, empowering truths'.
While the drums played, the African leaders who were dressed in dashiki maintained cheerful spirits as they danced to the upbeat rhythm which captured the attention of many onlookers who their phones out to capture the moment.
Tanyi, who is the king of Tino Mbu Cameroon and president of the African Indigenous Governance Council, was delighted to share his expectations for the symposium.
"This country is close to my birthplace. The people I see around just warm my heart; I just feel like I am home. I am very happy to be here. This is Bob Marley's [legendary reggae singer] country — that is the figure we know," he told the Jamaica Observer.
"We have come to assure the Jamaicans that they are Africans, we are Africans. There is nothing different between you and me and we just wish the differences that have kept us away would finally find a place to rest and we continue as brothers and sisters," Tanyi added.
Bam, president of the African Young Indigenous Leaders and who is also Ateker International Development Organisation (AIDO) Culture and Heritage ambassador of South Africa, was eager to share her joy as it was her first time visiting a Caribbean country.
"It is a dream come true for us because most of the time we normally talk about the Caribbean and I have never been here before, so I am very happy and I'm very excited and I am looking forward to the whole activities that we are going to be engaging in,' she said.
Mzilikazi III of the Mzilikazi Kingdom in South Africa told the Observer that she hopes to engage in talks which will evoke clarity to Jamaicans about the country's relations with Africa.
"We are here to come and talk to the people of Jamaica to tell them how much we love them, and to also wipe their tears because we know that they are crying as they say Africans, they didn't do well for them to end up here," she said.
"But we are here to explain to them what happened, what transpired at that time, and also to let them know that Africa is their home and they are welcomed," said Mzilikazi III, adding that she is pleased that the African culture is being embraced here.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Ireno Omositson Namboka, vice-president of AIDO and vice chancellor of the African Open University in Geneva, Switzerland, who arrived on Monday night, said he is looking forward to meeting the "grandchildren of Africa".
"We are looking forward to holding conversations with them about who we Africans are, who we used to be before people came to interrupt and take our grandparents away. We are looking forward to an exchange between siblings," he said.
Noting that it is his first time coming to Jamaica, Namboka said, "I am absolutely excited. Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey [national hero], all those other names on the continent are sentimental to us so we are really excited."
At the symposium the African leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues relating to slavery and which the organisers — the Caricom Reparations Commission in collaboration with The UWI — expect will change the long-held view that African royals had a hand in one of the greatest crimes against humanity.
In addition, the conference will also examine strategies to improve knowledge among African and Caribbean peoples, and how to reconnect as well as strengthen Africa-Caribbean relationships, including through trade and investment.
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