Slaves In Our Papa’s Land

Slaves In Our Papa’s Land, By Owei Lakemfa

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Since 2011, the hoodlums, religious fanatics and terrorists coupled together in Libya by the ‘international community’ have subjected blacks, especially Nigerians, to torture, summary execution, rape and slavery. This has been an open secret which many Nigerian returnees from Libya have recounted countless times. The outcry today in our country and across the world is primarily because the CNN showed the actual auctioning of blacks for as little as $350 per person.

This piece was written by Owei Lakemfa. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

What is going on in Libya is doubtlessly horrendous, but not surprising, and is not new. I generally discountenance claims of outrage from Western countries and the United States who militarily and economically destroyed Libya and handed it to the current bandits running various sections of the country.

When I watched the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres wax lyrical about the slave trade and other criminal acts being perpetuated in Libya, as acts that “may amount to crimes against humanity”, I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh because the current situation in Libya was imposed through the instrumentality of the UN Resolution SC/10200 of March 17, 2011.

Civil war had broken out in Libya when in another attempt to remove President Moamar Ghadaffi, then President Barack Obama of the United States, and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, supported by France and the Arab League, had unleashed a well-trained and armed ‘opposition” on the country. At a time, these characters were termed the ‘democratic forces’ that will enthrone democracy, even when their major backers in the Gulf are dictators and monarchs who do not allow elections in their own countries.

Beyond claims of democracy and human rights, it was well known that America and its Western allies had their sights on Libya’s rich oil reserves. The war had begun as “protests”, especially in Benghazi. Arms had quickly appeared in the “protests”, and when in the course of the war the government had the upper hand, the sponsors of the violence decided to take direct action to give the ‘opposition’ victory over the government, and as it has turned out, to destroy Libya itself.

Under the UN, Ghadaffi was accused of bombing parts of Libya and a case was made to “protect civilians.” The UN then banned Libya from using its airforce, and authorised other countries to effect this ban. With this, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) moved in to bomb the Libyan Armed Forces and allow the hoodlums to seize the country. It also bombed Ghadaffi’s convoy, injuring him and allowing him to be captured and summarily executed.

Apart from seizing Libyan asset across the world, imposing an arms embargo and completely isolating the Libyan government, the UN also played a very dangerous card, which is partly responsible for the criminal handling of blacks in Libya today, including selling them as slaves. The Libyan ‘opposition’ had claimed that Ghadaffi had over the years expended huge resources on Africa and encouraged blacks to work in Libya. It claimed that as a result, the blacks were fighting on the side of Ghadaffi and that many were racing across the continent to join Ghadaffi. The UN propagandists labelled these blacks as “mercenaries” and said it “Deplores the continuing flows of mercenaries into the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and calls upon all Member States… to prevent the provision of armed mercenary personnel to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.” As a result, all blacks found in Libya were designated “mercenaries” and tortured, shot, raped, kidnapped and made to carry out forced labour. The slave trade is an extension of forced labour.

Tragically, Nigeria had supported the plot to destroy the legitimate Libyan government and backed all the UN resolutions, including the one that designated Ghadaffi supporters, especially blacks as ‘mercenaries’. Our then Nigerian permanent representative in the United Nations, Mrs. Joy Ugwu, in supporting the plot against Libya, had argued that “The current State of affairs (in Libya) leaves an indelible imprint on the conscience and compels us to act”. After the Resolution was passed with Nigeria hypocritically ‘abstaining’, Mrs. Ugwu declared: “Today, we have sent an unequivocal message to the Libyan people that the dignity and safety of every man, woman and child is paramount.”

So with our country’s active connivance, NATO moved in to destroy Libya and we are left with its aftermath, including trading Nigerians in that country as sex or economic slaves. Libya became a failed state with no security, armed force or government, food and fuel shortages, unpaid salaries, kidnapping, rape and slave trade.

Libya is a conflict economy in which everything including human beings are commodified; it is ruled by violence and the persons who can muster the most violence gets away with anything. The allocation of resources is by violence and appropriation is by seizing what others have produced and defending what you have produced.

I have read that the Nigeria Foreign Affairs Ministry says it is taking up slavery and related issues with the Libyan government, and I ask, which of the five governments – the Government of National Accord (GNA) or the Islamist National Salvation Government (the two in Tripoli), the one in Tobruk, the new one around Sirte or the one in Benghazi run by renegade General Khalifa Hafter? It depends on which government controls a particular slave market.

Generally as Nigerians, we have to re-examine ourselves, stop the propaganda, and ask how we have produced citizens who are so desperate that they embark on suicidal journeys. How did we produce fellow Nigerians who borrow money to pay traffickers and cross the desert, where some perish, cross into Libya where they are prostituted, tortured and enslaved and then get into leaky, unsafe boats in which many perish? All to get to Italy, which itself may be the beginning of a punishing journey to other European countries, where there are no shelter or jobs waiting for them and where they are treated at best, as second class citizens. Quite simply, the African ruling class has abdicated its responsibilities and failed the people. Africans are simply enslaved in their own land.

As solution, first, we have to do all that is possible to bring back all Nigerians in Libya, including those who cannot freely leave because they are the property of some Libyans; we have to devise means of freeing them to return home. We also need to make the bandits in Libya know that Nigeria will defend its citizens and that we will come after all those who kill or dehumanise Nigerians. We need to realise that no matter the rhetoric, the West will not put its citizens in danger in order to stop the slave trade. In the long term, Nigeria needs to lead an African force to retake Libya from the bandits to whom the Obama and Cameron governments gave Libya.

Owei Lakemfa, former Secretary General of African Workers is a Human Rights activist, journalist and author.

Photo credit: Narciso Contreras for Fondation Carmignac/Time.

This piece was written by Owei Lakemfa. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

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Slaves In Our Papa’s Land

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