Why AU must do something to stop shame of slavery in Libya

Thursday November 30 2017

Protesters, some from Sub-Sahara Africa

Protesters, some from Sub-Sahara Africa countries protest against slavery in Libya on November 23, 2017, outside the Libyan embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat. AFP PHOTO | FADEL SENNA 

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Our brodas in the west of Africa have been bitten by the wander bug.

Ordinary folk with little education and a poor understanding of the world and its dangers are selling everything they own, paying people smugglers and undertaking dangerous journeys through the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean in the hope of? reaching? Europe, which is they think is a wonderful world full of wealth, jobs, good hospitals and schools for their children.


Their horrors begin when they set foot in southern Libya. Without a government, the Libyan desert tribes appear to have regressed into the more familiar medieval savagery but rather than trading salt through desert routes, they find it easier to kidnap the migrants, rape the women and the sell the men into slavery. Or demand ransom.

It is bad enough that people who live in the same?continent as ourselves are willing to sell us but what really speaks volumes about Libyans is that there are in this day and age willing to purchase a human being and put him to work.

If the migrants evade the slave traders, an overpaid Libyan smuggler is on hand to provide a dinghy for the journey across the Mediterranean.

The smugglers don’t travel with the “cargo”; they get an African fisherman, give him a compass and some GPS locator and make him “captain”.

For his “skills”, he rides on the boat free of charge. The Libyan smugglers will tell the ignorant Africans that the “boat” can make the 200-mile journey to the Italian coast, in actual fact they know the thing will fall apart in no more than 20 miles.

But by that time, they figure the migrants will be within reach of European Union ships stationed off the coast of Libya to rescue migrants in exactly those kinds of circumstances.


For those migrants rescued by the “Libyans”, they enter a form of hell not seen in many decades.

They are confined in what is little more than death camps, where as many 200 starving people are packed in a single room for as many as six months by which time their ribs stick out like those of Holocaust survivors in 1945 Europe.

There is hardly any food, medical attention or human kindness in those camps.

Migrants are beaten, called slaves and subjected to the worst forms of racism.

There are no aid agencies. If the migrants run away, they will likely be shot by the more than 40 rag tag armies fighting for the control of Tripoli. Or be captured and sold.?

There is no plan for them, other than perhaps waiting for them to die of disease, malnutrition or just sheer hardship.

There is no proper authority taking care of their needs and the country is too dangerous for aid agencies.


I think this is the kind of situation for which the African Union was created. The AU should provide the mechanism for bringing together a military expeditionary force to go to Libya and free those in death camps and those who sold into slavery.

Nigeria, Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire and others that have citizens living in slavery should take the lead with the support of all other African nations.

Secondly, the AU should reflect and take a decision whether there is a place in the union for a nation whose citizens trade in Africans.

I doubt there is an African on this continent today who wants to have anything to do with Libya.
Thirdly, African countries should consider whether they want to do business with a nation where slavery is practised. Africa can send a powerful signal of its intolerance to Libya and other countries which want to indulge in racism.

And if African countries can’t find a way to keep their people at home – particularly if Europe is unwilling to help create economic conditions to keep Africans in Africa – then governments must open safe corridors for the migration.

I will not encourage anyone in their right minds to try and become an illegal immigrant in Europe, it is a useless existence, but I will be the last to condemn West Africans following the great African wealth that Europeans have milked off the continent for centuries.

I am very puzzled by the shooting of children this political season.

One child was shot in the heart, another in the head. We have made great effort to identify the shooters, without much success so far.

In the case of the boy shot in Pipeline Estate, I don’t think the question of accidental shooting by a police officer should arise.

There should have been no police operation there. Besides, why would an officer open fire in a crowded estate?

If the shootings are by the police with the intention of intimidating the opposition, shouldn’t the police confront the hardened protestors they clash with every time there is a demo? Why go out of their way to look for children?

As we mourn, this matter should be thoroughly investigated.

The shooters must be identified and the motive established so that justice can be done and the heinous crime brought to an end.

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