Magazine article New African

Slave Auctions-Some Home Truths

Magazine article New African

Slave Auctions-Some Home Truths

Article excerpt

The slave auctions in Libya have generated a great deal of outrage among African leaders, but how did we get to this pass in the first instance? What drives young people to migrate at such risk--for such supposed rewards? We should start looking inwards for the answers.

African anger over the Libyan slave auctions has been palpable. Governments have called in Libyan government representatives to rebuke them, and the AU has fulminated on the matter.

All this seems a little too late. The auctioning off of migrants as slaves is simply the latest manifestation of horrors that have been taking place along the North African coast as Africans try to make it to the "promised land" of the EU. Thousands have died, the most recent being 26 young Nigerian girls in November, without drawing the outraged response from Africans that the slave market did. Why?

Before that is addressed, it is worth reflecting that the reason all this is happening in the first place is the chaos unleashed after NATO (principally the UK, France and Barack Obama) overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. Disgracefully, they were able to do this through UN Security Council resolution 1973, with votes from Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon.

Ironically, a black US president and the two most powerful black nations in the world, delivered a foreign policy outcome that reintroduced public slave markets on the African continent. Think about that for a minute.

So why has this issue triggered such a heated and emotional response, with Rwanda even offering to take 30,000 stranded victims? It is because deep down all are acutely aware that this reflects terribly on all black Africans. Despite the etymology of the word deriving from the Slavs, for hundreds of years, black Africans became synonymous with slavery.

What has, however, been remarkable is how little we have publicly reflected on this experience or even embedded red lines around the issue in our institutions. Slavery has arguably been the biggest event to impact Africans, with millions tortured and killed, and others scattered around the world. Yet in most African countries, and especially at AU level, there are no eternal flames, no annual days to reflect on the issue, no awareness -raising amongst ourselves (and with our Arab African colleagues) about internalising a zero tolerance attitude to slavery. …

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