Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
Black immigrants from several west and east African countries are reported to be auctioned as slaves in Libya, and an African Union (AU) sub-committee recently recommended in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire that those still in Libya should be repatriated.
The United Nations Organisation, meanwhile, is scheduled to discuss the very sad allegation that some immigrants have been auctioned as slaves in that North African country.
Affected people are from Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria in West Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Southern Sudan in East Africa.
The immigrants are captured by Libyan people smugglers who hold them in cages in various Libyan towns prior to selling them to rich Libyans. It is suspected that some are bought by some Tunisians and Egyptians who smuggle them across their countries’ borders with Libya.
The black people would have left their respective countries because of either religious terrorism, acute unemployment, violent political instability or natural disasters such as drought.
The immigrants’ destination is Europe where they hope to find employment by which they can support their families. Some who are not captured by the people smugglers perish in the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats en route to Europe via Italy.
It is extremely sad that the African continental body, the African Union (AU), is much more concerned with political issues than with socio-economic matters that can transform their 50-plus micro-states into economically viable integrated nations.
It is certainly not defensible that Africans now perish on their way to Europe, a few decades after vigorously agitating against European colonialism.
Slavery is an ancient and primitive practice that arose out of the capture at the dawn of world history as war prisoners. Initially such war prisoners were massacred, but later they became the properties of the victors.
It was a recognised institution in Greece since Homer’s days. Both Aristotle and Plato assumed in their writings that slavery was a natural condition of what they termed inferior races.
The Spanish people have an old saying: “A people who are cowards become slaves of the brave.”
That saying can very well have been modified in today’s world: “A people who do not work hard are turned into slaves by hard workers.”
In Africa today, there are other factors, of course, that create tragic environments that force large numbers of citizens to flee from their countries. However, the most common factor is national economic deterioration that leads to an intolerably poor standard of living.
Insecurity is another factor that negatively affects some African nations, and even regions. The so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo (the DRC), is a good example, and so-called because there is nothing “democratic” about President Joseph Kabila’s government, that is why he is still president, months after his constitutional term expired.
The AU seems unable to solve these African problems to such an extent that in some cases former colonial masters are requested to intervene on behalf of the African governments! The Libyan slavery scandal is an example of how the AU is not functioning effectively. If it were, solutions to a number of African problems could have been found by now.
The causes of the problems should be identified, and fully effective remedial (and not half measures) should be taken by the AU, and not by each affected state.
In the slavery case of Libya, the AU surely could have long ensured that the country has a legitimate administration, and that law and order prevailed within its borders.
To do so, each AU state should enjoy a respectable level of prosperity, tranquility and the government should be committed to the observation of human rights and constitutional governance.
The AU ought to have a clause in its constitution that requires each member state to develop and maintain conditions that satisfy their people’s basic life needs such as accommodation, food, health, education, transport, security and entertainment.
A clause prohibiting slavery should be a part of the AU constitution, and the violation of which should lead to mandatory diplomatic and other sanctions by every member state.
Informed people have been aware for a very long time that some Middle Eastern countries as well as Libya have been practising slavery, and victims of that most primitive crime are black people from the countries mentioned above.
In the Middle East, affected people include some from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Some of the unfortunate people fall prey to human traffickers who mislead and cheat mostly functionally illiterate, economically desperate or politically vulnerable individuals. They sell such people to some rich but heartless families in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, Oman and other Middle Eastern nations whose history and culture are closely involved in the slave trade.
Zimbabwe had more or less a similar experience earlier this year, and the Government had to intervene to save a number of women who had been turned into virtual slaves in Kuwait.
Slavery was officially abolished in the then British Empire in 1833, and the American Civil War abolished slavery in the United States. Portugal had been a notorious pioneer of the horrible slave trade, and in Eastern Europe, Russia abolished serfdom, a milder form of slavery, on March 17, 1861.
Practising slavery negates the liberty, freedoms, rights and democratic principles of today’s world as laid down by the United Nations Organisations Charter.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo – based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email [email protected]