December 2, 2021

Libyan slave trade: where are the African leaders?

5 min read

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara


Captured, shackled, and sold into slavery

The breaking news by CNN of the human slave trade in Libya has finally proved the level of criminal activities of international human rights violations against African migrants in the 21st century despite efforts by the international community to stamp out such crimes.


African leaders, oblivious to the suffering of millions of their people, are still unable to address the issues that are causing the mass exodus of young Africans and their entrapment in the hands of modern-day criminals. And while the international community cringes over the disclosure, the Libyan authorities are still evading responsibility and promised to investigate, an outcome which the world is waiting to know the people behind the heinous crimes.

  “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Abraham Lincoln.

The perpetrators should be brought to book and similar matters of such be addressed under the auspices of the International Criminal Court (ICC) so that people worldwide with intent to commit such an act, or are already perpetrators of similar crimes, to know the severity of their actions.

The report has ignited worldwide outcry as pictures and videos of the horrific crime perpetrated against poor migrants fleeing persecutions, wars, and poverty, to seek refuge in foreign lands are nabbed, shackled, starved, beaten, and sold into slavery; but are African leaders prepared to take up positions that will put an end to such a crime?


Desperate migrants risking the high seas


Making public pronouncements against criminals, abusers and violators of human crimes will never stop the perpetrators from committing the crimes but rather the implementation of policies by governments to protect the rights of people, and collaborating with international partners in ensuring that governments found culpable of hiding information of such crimes committed in their countries are brought to book by the International Criminal Court.

Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”, while Article 5 also guarantees that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, but worldwide events of perpetration of crimes against humanity are indicative of total disregard of these international protocols signed and ratified by governments for the protection of people worldwide. As indicative of the CNN report, the purpose of the declaration was undermined by the government of Libya which despite numerous reports of such a heinous crime being perpetrated in its doorstep and allegedly known by officials, denied the allegations, while poor migrants were maltreated and sold into slavery.

The report by the CNN has finally shed light to the whole denial by the Libyan governments as well as similar abuses and violations committed in other countries, such as trafficking in persons which includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, among others; and now asks the question, what are African leaders doing to address the anomaly in the continent?

Poor governance and corruption


Poor governance and high level of corruption are causing the lack of transparency and accountability by African governments amid growing exodus of people fleeing unemployment, poverty, starvation, political instabilities and wars, and abuse and violation of their basic human rights.  African heads of states and their governments should be focusing on the implementation of measures geared at providing the enabling environment for local and international investment to create jobs, opportunities, and economic growth.

Making public statements and tackling criminals alone cannot solve the problem but the rather effective management of the continent’s resources, investment in education, infrastructure and agriculture, among others, will help to control the spates of abuse and violation. The people will take their leaders seriously and will heed to their messages if the conditions at home are favorable, but unfortunately, will risk their lives in the Sahara desert or the hostile terrains of Libya to find greener pastures.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 233 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry/undernourished in 2014-6 (its most recent estimate).

The UNFAO report, like the many others showing the despicable situation in Africa, such as the present despicable human slavery, is an issue that must be tackled with utmost seriousness and urgency. People are desperate to escape poverty and hunger and will take every risk to change their predicament.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, who is on a four-day visit to Africa amid growing anger across the continent about politicians’ collective failure to do more to clamp down on human trafficking, and even slave auctions, in Libya, called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations security council this week, saying such auction houses are a crime against humanity.

The African Union in collaboration with the United Nations and other international agencies should be looking at pragmatic solutions beyond just declarations to address the growing humanitarian crises in Africa. Instability in the Sahel caused by terrorist groups, tribal and regional tensions, political instability, and persecutions creates the unstable atmosphere for investment opportunities to be able to thrive as the chaos deny millions of Africans  sustainable jobs,  education, affordable and sustainable  healthcare, security and economic stability, and the opportunity for a better life.

The Libyan slave market disclosure shouldn’t be a surprise; because the abuses and violations are real and happening now in the 21st century. The world already knows the fact but what everyone should be worried about is the inaction by African governments to stand up to the menace and implement measures to protect the people.

Africa must rise up

Where are the African leaders? Africa must rise up now to join other continents in making this world a better place to live. Africa cannot continue to boast of being the breadbasket of the world while millions of her children are starving and being sold into slavery.

The African Union, The United Nations, and African governments must act now. The people are crying and want a stop to the heinous human rights abuse and violations meted on them by terrorist groups, their governments, and criminals who continue to destabilize their communities and rendering them homeless.

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