In a recently, hastily but belated arranged summit drawn up by the African Union(AU) and European Union (EU) in Cote Ivoire, an evacuation plan was devised to evacuate migrants facing abuse in Libyan detention camps. The plan was to send migrants back to their home countries. This move has been prompted by video footages showing migrants being sold as slaves. The amount and the kind of abuse and death meted out to these migrants is unimaginable. You could tell by the barbarity of their Libyan captors, that humanity has sunk to brutish bestiality and beyond the cusp of animal instincts. African countries at last, are waking up to the truth of these atrocities by these brutish beasts, that tend to pass for humans. Interestingly, it is not like African leaders were not aware of the brutality and life denying conditions that these migrants were subjected to. Social media has been overloaded with these shameful acts for a very long time. But as usual, it took the Secretary General of the United Nations and a CNN broadcast footage of the slave auctions in mid-November, to rouse Africa and its leaders from their slumber and tackle the problem. Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal and other African states have taken unilateral steps to repatriate their respective citizens. Talk about closing the barn door when the horse has bolted. Never mind, it’s better late than never.
The French President Macron, described the actions of the Libyans as “a crime against humanity”; as the going rate was $300-$400 a pop. What happens to these migrants after money had changed hands for them is unbearable to think of. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has been central here; and it aims to repatriate over 15000,000 by Christmas. Reports have it that as part of a wider European policy of curbing illegal migration, Europe had been intercepting migrant vessels and dumping them in Libya. It is not surprising that the UN, and The AU are accusing “Europe of helping to create the conditions for migrant abuse” (BBC).
That is rich, coming from the African Union. Did these African leaders for one-minute spend time asking the mother of all questions; “why are our youths venturing into such adventures, knowing full well the perils that lie in wait for them? Have they forgotten to look in their backyards to see the intolerable and life denying conditions that they have created, because of their greed and bad governance, that is driving our children to hell or the gallows? Have they ever considered what it means for a person to choose hell over his/her home country? Why would someone risk all for hell? African leaders of those countries with these migrants should be holding their heads in shame, if not for their consciences of chainsaw. They should be ashamed of themselves. Call it what you may but this is a big blot on the conscience of Africa, and the human map of Africa.
Migration is a natural process of the world community, and illegal migration, though frowned upon by recipient countries is part of the natural equation. It is a by product of man made systems that hold one selection of people, nations, regions, races etc in perpetual servitude to the other; by economic, social, political and cultural etc mechanisms. Some call it the United nations. Others call it the IMF. Call it what you like, these systems are designed to maintain a particular status quo of certain organisations, individuals and collective countries. I know that you are asking for proofs; come with me and let us retrace our steps backwards.
Take Libya, the central bazaar for these barbaric acts. We all know that Libya was not known for such 10 years ago. What happened? A new World Order, REGIME CHANGE was proclaimed by the West. A political and social upheaval was unleashed in a whole region; the rippling effects of which are still for all to see. The rest is history. Before some one in their infinite wisdom embarked on regime change, Education and medical treatment was FREE in Libya. Libya had NO EXTERNAL DEBTs and had reserves of $150 billion. The price of petrol was $0.14 per litre, having a home was considered a HUMAN RIGHT, Gender equality was a reality and newlyweds received $50,000 from the government. People had enough food, the human development index was better than two-thirds of the countries reported on, and Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project.
This is not aimed at exalting Gaddafi, but during his time, the oil was privatised to every Libyan citizen. With a UN backed administration, which has limited control over the territory, in place today, it is little wonder that Libya has become nectar to all kinds of groups that have a phobia for human rights, law and order, and allergic to the dignity of humanity. With such a collection of people, and with the smuggling networks getting stronger, the hope against hope is that these migrants would make it in time to spend Christmas with their families.
So, let us take a step back, this time into history. It is an over used cliché that history repeats itself but its true. Slavery is not a new concept to Africa and the African psyche. In those days, African kings, emperors and chiefs waged wars, captured their fellow Africans and sold them to the white slave traders, in exchange for rum, tobacco, guns, and gun powder. They were forcibly transported to the gold mines and plantations. Our present day “leaders” seem to be more sophisticated. Through bad governance, greed and kleptocracy, all they have to do is create conditions that generated slavery; and this time its “Voluntary”. In those days, slaves were welcome, and they were valuable goods. Today, they are “Illegal migrants” in a modern-day slavery that is conveniently called human Trafficking”. I know what human trafficking is, and I know it didn’t start in the 20th century. It was just christened differently “dem days, and the process was officially rubber stamped.
When the slaves became surplus to requirements, because of the Industrial Revolution, not purely down to humanitarian considerations, anti-slave trade and slavery organisations got together to restore the dignity of humanity. Captured slave ships were returned to their senders and their cargo called re-captives. I bear the marks of that “proud” history as my country’s capital was named after the whole exercise. This is not intended to belittle the efforts of people like Granville Sharpe, William Wilberforce and others. They clamoured for the abolition of slave trade long ago in 1789. But it was on the 25th March 1807, 18 years later, that the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, abolished the Slave Trade in British colonies. That coincided with the Industrial Revolution, when slaves were replaced by machines, and it was considered more productive to enslave the slave in their home countries. Some people call it colonialism; the birthchild of the 1884 Berlin Conference.
In those days, captured slaves were returned to their home countries; or so it was meant to be. Some escaped and decided to stay in their new-found lands. Today, migrants “saved” on the Mediterranean by the EU are returned to the wolves in Libya, the cauldron for the most lawless region North of the Limpopo; if my geography serves me right. Interestingly today, everyone is clamouring to solve the problem; just like the abolitionists did; as if they never knew about it. And the United Nations and particularly the African Union; the society for self-preservation, is quick to blame the EU for the problem; as if this was an imported problem. Sounds like selective memory deficit to me; where the pot blames the kettle for being black (pardon the pun).
History continues to repeat itself. Africa’s resources continue to be exploited by its colonial masters. With all its vast resources, the continent remains the poorest. How can you explain the illogical logic of Cote Ivoire, the largest cocoa producing nation having citizens who have never known what chocolate tastes like? How do you rationalise Sierra Leone’s endowment with diamonds of up to 907 carats, but still wallowing in the cesspit of the Global Human Index? How do you justify Zimbabwe going full circle from “the bread basket of Africa” to the “begging bowl” of Africa, in exchange for “land” and Independence”? Don’t get me wrong, “independence” is priceless but at what price? How do you explain Nigeria, ranked 12th in the oil producing champions league, but exercising monopoly on fuel shortage and long queues for fuel in the country?
Let us face it, Africa is severely afflicted by Resource Curse; and it is not surprising that the Continent is sitting by the river and washing its hands with spittle. Africa is laden with debt, and debt is slavery. Because of greed, we have lost what we gained. Our leaders just need to pay a visit to their consciences, locate the area for compassion and use it. Africa does not need leaders with degrees. It does not need leaders with freedom fighting credentials. What Africa needs is leaders with just an ounce of compassion for their fellow man. Leaders who have enough emotional intelligence to relate to what it feels like, living on less than a dollar a day. The suffering of these migrants will forever be on their consciences. Africa is wealthy, but remains enslaved. Some people believe that it’s better to eat mushroom in freedom than to eat meat in slavery. You should have tried telling that to our brothers and sisters who would give anything to evacuate Libya. Don’t blame me, blame Hollywood; the land of existential fantasies. Hey Eddie Murphy, what did you tell me about “Coming to America? Bet Trumpism was not invented……then.
William Wilberforce once said “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M.L. King)