Is the slave trade back? Free up our black people now

EA women in perspective

Sunday January 7, 2018

By Anne Kiruku

East African News Agency, Arusha

A fortnight ago, as a workshop bringing together the East African Community heads of anti-narcotic and anti-human trafficking agencies was being held, one of the worst forms of human slavery in recent days was unearthed in Libya.

A horrifying video showing migrants being sold at auctions in Libya has since gone viral, bringing pressure and calls for action from people of all walks of life. Libyans took to social media by storm using the hashtag LibyansAgainstSlavery and trending across the world.

The video shows a man selling African migrants for farm work for as little as $400 as he shouts, “Big strong boys.” The slave trade has elicited anger among many people, with riots against the dehumanising act witnessed in Libya, Paris and other cities as people expressed their outrage.

It is a shame and an embarrassment not only to the government of Libya but to all the African continent as a whole and indeed the whole of the human race. Such retrogressive humiliating levels of human indignity and violation of fundamental human rights should be unheard of in the modern world.

It is shocking that only the Chair of the African Union, Guinea President Alpha Conde, has come out to condemn the crime. He has termed it a despicable trade from another era.

Migrants swim towards a rescue boat belonging to a Spanish NGO, Proactiva Open Arms in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya early in October. PHOTO | CNN
A boat laden with migrants is about to capsize in the Mediterranean sea mid last month. PHOTO | CBC

No other African head of state has come out strongly to condemn the heinous act that should indeed amount to crimes against humanity. This indifferent attitude towards gross violation of human rights by the heads of state shows how little most of them value human life.

The loud silence from world leaders on the goings-on in Libya also speaks volumes on the level of human indignity that most of them have towards Africans.

Reports that human rights activists raised the alarm a month ago but no action was taken shows laxity on the part of the Libyan government, which expressed shock and lodged investigations after the video went viral.

It is a shame that even after aid workers, human rights groups and analysts raised their voices over the rape, torture and forced work for thousands of black Africans in the war-torn North African country, no action was taken.

The International Organisation for Migration had in April reported the existence of markets where migrants became “commodities to be bought,” yet nothing was done.

Several months later, the head of medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres Joanne Liu wrote a letter to European governments warning of a thriving kidnapping, torture and extortion business in Libya.

It has been an open secret that black Africans are being subjected to humiliation, torture and forced labour, yet world leaders choose to remain silent. It is only after the CNN video footage that United Nations Chief Antonio Guterress raised his voice and condemned the crime.

The international community should stop turning a blind eye to the horrors Libyan immigrants are going through

It is indeed hypocritical for France to request for a meeting of the UN Security Council, as President Emmanuel Macron has done, yet all along the world leaders knew of the human indignity going on in Libya.

It is now imperative for the international community to provide support to asylum seekers from Libya. They should stop turning a blind eye to the horrors that Libyan immigrants are going through.

Furthermore, it is critical for Europe to play its role in helping to end the dehumanising trade in Libya if human dignity is to be restored at all not only in Libya but in Africa as a whole. Europe bears a fundamental responsibility in stopping migrants from arriving in European countries. It should not turn a blind eye to the looming crisis.

It is now crucial for African countries to end corruption and grow their economies to ensure young people stay in the continent. Most of the young people are lured into European countries due to frustrations back at home brought about by lack of employment and basic necessities. The allure of western countries as their only hope in meeting basic needs is too good to resist for such young persons.

The EU-AU summit scheduled for 29-30 November provides a useful forum that could be used to come up with concrete answers on how to tackle the problem in Libya. Investigations must also be conducted and the culprits brought to book.

The region and international community should help Libya to fight the menace, especially because the north African country is undergoing a political crisis which has affected governance and breached security and surveillance.

Slavery is the most dehumanising forms of human rights violations; it should not even be heard of. It is a practice that belongs to the Stone Age era. Anyone found reviving it deserves severe punishment and no leniency.

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