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Libya Slave Trade: Everybody Knew

With the fall of Gaddafi came the rise of a modern day slave trade in Libya. Our correspondent in Africa tells the tale of the horrific situation that befalls many in Africa.

Chinedu, a young Nigerian man in his late twenties is seated under a palm tree. The heat of the midday sun does not seem to bother him at all. He is probably thinking of where to get some money to buy medicine for his ailing mother. His six siblings look up to him for provision. Their father abandoned them and married another wife. It’s so much that he doesn’t realize his friend Emeka has walked up to him and sat beside him. Life has not been easy for the two young men. It is now four years since they graduated from college, but none has secured a job yet. The levels of unemployment and poverty in their country Nigeria have risen to the ceiling. The National Bureau of Statistics put the unemployment rate at 14.2% in 2016. Deeply troubled, the two friends decide they must act immediately or else they’ll perish. They must go to Europe because they were told life’s a breeze over there.

He talks with his mother. They sell their only cow to get some funds and in an emotional farewell, he bids his family goodbye. He promises to send some money as soon as he gets a job in Europe. He and Emeka leave and head to Abdullah, a man who is known for taking people to Europe. They give him two thirds of their money and board a waiting truck nearby. It is full of other young men and women. They are all headed to Europe. Though they try to cheer up one another, their faces tell the story of gloom and sadness. Soon after, the truck starts. They journey through the venomous Sahara Desert enduring sand storms, scorching day and chilling night temperatures. Three days later, they are in Zuwara, Libya. Apparently, they can’t travel to Europe. The EU in collaboration with Libya has, in a bid to stop migrant influx to Europe, closed the border. Italian vessels patrol the sea seeking to turn back migrant boats. So Abdullah hurls them into a warehouse and locks it. Chinedu is later sold as a slave for $400. 

The Story of Chinedu is not far-fetched, it is happening right now in modern day Africa. The matter only gained global attention after footage aired by CNN revealed the shocking details. In the footage, an auctioneer puts up for sale a young man to already bidding buyers. Within no time, many people are all sold and now everyone awaits the next public auction. Reports on the ground indicate that slave trading has been happening in Libya for some time now. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) conducted an investigation in April 2017 and found evidence of the slave trade in Libya. The trade can be traced back to 2011 after the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime. Since then, Libya has been experiencing war and lawlessness. It is this lack of rule of law that has presented a stage for rebels, bandits and human traffickers.

Following the revelation, world leaders were quick to condemn the trade and say they were horrified. The African Union (AU) moved in and offered to repatriate 20,000 of the almost a million migrants trapped in Libya. These are migrants held in government controlled detention centers. The rest are held by traffickers. Countries such as Nigeria from which a sizable number of the migrants originated have also repatriated some its citizens. This process has however proved to be a logistical nightmare due to the many nationalities involved.

Despite the world generally being shocked, activists have accused global leaders of hypocrisy saying they knew of the situation in Libya but ignored it. The Libyan government has on the other hand tried to deny the revelation. A tweet by President Trump that claimed CNN to be airing fake news boosted Libya’s claims. However the reality on the ground is different and the slave trade in Libya is a booming business.

Currently, efforts are being made to respond to the situation. The European Commissioner for Migration, Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos has said that the responsibility of bringing under control the slavery crisis belongs to the whole world and not the EU alone. He further added that the EU is already collaborating with international partners in Libya. Individual countries like Italy and France have also moved in to help.

In a society that champions for the rights of every human being, the world must come together at a time like this and stand against these stone-age practices. For people like Chinedu, we can only hope the best for him and that maybe one day, just one day he will meet with his family again.

Related stories:

After getting “democracy” from a US and NATO intervention, Libya is now trading slaves

Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer born and raised in Kenya. He is professionally trained as a public health officer but loves writing more. When not writing, he enjoys reading, doing charity work and spending time with friends and family. He is also a crazy pianist!

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