850 guests attended the inauguration ceremony of the Memorial ACTe, on Sunday, May 10, 2015 in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe). Among them, about thirty government delegations coming from France, the Caribbean and Africa but also local personalities.
The French delegation present at the Memorial ACTe was composed of the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, Claude Bartelone (President of the National Assembly) and five ministers of the French government, namely : Fleur Pèlerin (Minister for Culture and Communication, at that time) ; George Pau-Langevin (Minister of Overseas, at that time) ; Annick Girardin (Minister of French-speaking world) ; Christiane Taubira (Minister of Justice, at that time) ; Ségolène Royal (Minister of Environment and Ecology).
The French head of state arrived at the site at 9:58 am where he was received by Victorin Lurel (Deputy and President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe) and Jacques Bangou (Mayor of Pointe-à-Pitre).
With other members of the French delegation, the three men stoped a first time in front of the group of “tanbouyé” (ka drummers) called “Konvwa Ka” (among the musicians, Yves Thôle and Fanswa Ladrézeau) which played the well-known song “Misié zé dam, bonswa byen” (Ladies and gentlemen, good evening!).
The Caribbean islands were present
The second stopping place was in front of a “strombophones” orchestra (conches shells) and ka drummers, conducted by Gérard Gros. The third stopping place was in front of the ribbon of inauguration, François Hollande cut it into seven little pieces – like the seven rhythms of the gwoka music – he gave them to seven children. Then, the presidential delegation went to the entrance of the building for the fourth stopping place. So, Pascal Berthelot and Fabien Doré, architects, explained the symbolism of the “potomitan tree” or “memorial tree” planted in the middle of the hall. Finally, the fifth stopping place allowed these privileged visitors to discover a preview of the permanent exhibition composed of items from the African continent, such as“the oblivion tree” (Cameroon), the slaves chain with four collars (Benin), a warrior (Mali)…
An hour later, the Heads of States and Governments from almost all the Caribbean and the Presidents of Africa (Mali, Senegal an Benin), the presidents of the French local authorities of America (Guiana, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin) were welcomed by François Hollande and Victorin Lurel.
Slavery, a crime against humanity
The President of the French Republic and the President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe unveiled the inaugural plaque of the Memorial ACte. “France is capable of looking at its history because it is afraid of nothing (…) that takes courage to overcome the inertia, prejudices (…),” said François Hollande and he underlined that the French Republic described slave trade and slavery as a “crime against humanity” by the law of May 21, 2001. He highlighted the struggle of slaves to “leave the hell of plantations”, the action of the abolitionists (Abbot Grégoire and Victor Schoelcher) to make illegal slavery and the interventions of the members of Parliament to make full citizens the inhabitants of West Indian-Guyanese French colonies by the “Law of Departmentalization” in 1946.
Finally, the guests stood up to applaud François Hollande when he declared that he will pay back France’s debt when he will visit Haiti on May 12 : 159 million gold francs that the island paid to Paris to keep its independence gained in 1804. However, the Haitians who hoped to receive a lot of money, knew in Port-au-Prince that it will be about a cooperation in the school education for young people.
To end the event, all the delegations took the footbridge to the “Morne Mémoire” to be photographed and to immortalize this meeting in Guadeloupe.