By Israel A. Ebije
Activities of slave merchants trading off migrants stuck in Libya has earned the country a reputation only an exclusive preserve of countries like Italy, France, Portugal, Britain and Spain, who shipped Blacks from Africa in 1492 to work in farms as slaves. While it was marginally understandable for the Whites to subject Blacks to slavery based on repugnant concept of racial superiority, the Libya notoriety is abysmal, condemnable and bereft of explanations. Their victims are sold for as low as $400 to a lifetime of hard labor.
Libya has an estimated one million migrants locked up in various dungeons across the country. Funded and equipped by European Union, Italy to keep them off crossing the precarious Atlantic ocean where estimated 5,000 refugees have died in recent years. The administrative will power of Libyan government is put to question amidst accusation of complicity in the heinous slave-trading. The quest to get free labor to make extra money from migrants has made the slave market lucrative, with cartels expanding in the bestial trade on daily bases.
The quest for greener pastures has always been the driving force behind migration of Africans to largely hostile territories. In recent times, the fear of terrorist activities has escalated economic back turn experienced in many African countries like Sumalia, Sudan, Boko Haram menace in parts of northern Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. Other countries known to migrate through the channel include Ghana, Zambia, Senegal and Gambia. Oblivious to most migrants who are often deceived by so called travel agents, their countries of dream are very hostile, just as their transit terrains in parts of Africa. The unyielding sea, the unforgiving dessert all add up to bring death to migrants often running from lesser tragedy in their African home base.
Slavery is not the lowest point of the migration tragedy in Libya, but the level of killings and prostitution that characterize daily living in Tripoli and environs is escalating and quite disheartening. Most of the traffickers have offices located in parts of West Africa. Agadez and Zinder are notorious haven for the syndicate who often promise their victims better fortunes in Europe. Slave traders collect $750 to $1500 to cargo humans across the treacherous dessert to Sabha, near Libya – where most migrants begin a journey of torture, horror and death.
It is curious to note that Libya has joined other slave markets of the modern world. India tops the list of notorious countries engaged in legal slavery with an estimated slave population of 14.3 million people. Other countries include, China with 3.2 million, Pakistan with 2.1 million, Uzbekistan with 1.2 million estimated modern slaves. With the exception of the medieval kind of slavery in Libya characterized by torture, prostitution and murder, afore mentioned countries have people working to keep food in their stomachs in the harshest conceivable condition for a human.
What many migrants miss out in their travel-to-do plan is the risk factors. While some will be overtly desperate to exit their deplorable life in their home countries, many are only told of the George Orwell “sugar-candy mountain”, which often turns out to be their El-Dorado of none existent treasures. President Muhammadu Buhari has joined other leaders of the world to condemn the bestiality against African migrants in Libyan, which is the right thing to do, but very short-term in nature. A long term plan is indeed instructive and a full time duty.
It is important for government in affected countries to educate its citizenry through all possible media outlets of the evil involved in illegal migration. The most bizarre revelation from victims fortunate to return after their ordeal is the fact that fellow Nigerians, fellow African country men and women are involved in the trade. Those who experienced the horrible slave business aside losing their integrity, mostly came back losing everything including limbs, vital organs. Most will never recover, as some are inching to their graves on account of permanent medical impairment.
Reasons for migrations in Africa are associated with bad governance; corruption, poor administrative policies, poverty, insecurity, unemployment, absence of social amenities, healthcare, infrastructures, just to mention a few. If leaders in African countries take to patriotism, avoid self seeking agenda, resources will definitely be used to improve the wellbeing of ordinary citizens. In Nigeria, politicians are supper rich (they account for only a fragment of the entire population), while the larger population scratch to eat. The migration debacle will continue if there are no green pastures in home countries of desperate Africans. It is therefore necessary to assert that dearth of leadership is to blame for the Libya slave market.
For the aggrieved world, words of discontent alone may only amount to hoopla, and not necessarily end the slavery except sanction is deployed to stimulate positive action. Gadhafi exit after forty years of power in Libya has left the country without a true leader. Libya is sadly a failed state. Cartels of miscreants have become the law and government is with its tail between its legs only capable of belching a bark like a sick puppy. The world must fix Libya to contain the menace of savagery fast become a way of life among its crime syndicate.
Ebije can be reached via: [email protected] or @ebijeisrael