V.I. Attorney General Visited Ghana for Conference

V.I. Attorney General Denise George with U.S. Ambassador to Ghana- Stephanie S. Sullivan. (Photo provided by the V.I. Department of Justice)
V.I. Attorney General Denise George with U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan. (Photo provided by the V.I. Department of Justice)

In March, Attorney General Denise George participated in a conference in Accra, Ghana aimed at collaboratively tackling transnational crimes, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

The Ghanaian government, through the Attorney General Alliance-Africa, invited 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. George reportedly participated in panel discussions, historical heritage tours and Independence Day Celebrations in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom.

The conference, titled “Tackling the Reality of Transnational Crime in Africa,” was held March 3 and 4 in Ghana’s capital city of Accra. The U.S. group of state attorneys general took part in presentations, workshops and panel discussions with their African counterparts. Attorneys General Aaron Ford of Nevada, Karl Racine of the District of Columbia, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Kwame Raoul of Illinois and Letitia James of New York also were there. They led a panel discussion examining human trafficking/modern-day slavery highlighting international approaches to combat the problem.

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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.

“Transnational crimes including human sex trafficking, cybercrime, corruption, financial fraud and criminal enterprises have already hit this territory,” George said in the news release.

“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,” she said.

King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the 16th King of the Ashanti Kingdom at Manhyia Palace in Kumasi, with Denise George and other U.S. attorneys general. (Photo provided by the V.I. Department of Justice)

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 more than 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 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 recaptured, tortured and re-enslaved.

Ghana’s 63rd Independence Day celebrations in Kumasi. (Photo provided by the V.I. Department of Justice)
Ghana’s 63rd Independence Day celebrations in Kumasi. (Photo provided by the V.I. Department of Justice)

They also participated in the Republic of Ghana’s 63rd Independence Day celebrations, 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.

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.

“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,” George said. “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.”

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