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Africa’s boiling pot and modern day slavery

REALITY: Libya's slave trade is a small element into the various issues which leads people to human trafficking, iwrites Ogbogu

LIBYAN SLAVE merchants are a relatively small factor in the cesspool of internal African issues, which push people in to the hands of human traffickers. Recent images of black Africans in bondage have provoked a knee jerk reaction amongst viewers to blame Libyan traffickers. This is a normal feeling.

However, the blunt reality is this; the phenomenon of modern day slavery is betwixt in a constellation of factors which have very little to do with Libyan traffickers. This article does not seek to vindicate slave merchants - rather it seeks to emphasise that corrupt governments, extreme poverty and youth unemployment, has made African nations extremely fertile for human traffickers.

For decades women from West Africa have been trafficked and forced into the life of prostitution in Europe. Conversely, some women choose to become sex workers as a means to escape extreme poverty. According to Debbie Ariyo, chief executive of AFRUCA: “Most of the girls who are going are going because they live in extreme poverty. Most of the parents that allow their children to go are doing that because of poverty”. Poverty in nations such as Nigeria are self-created.

Put bluntly in a former “secret” CIA intelligence assessment of Nigeria during 1985, “Over the course of the 1974-84 period, Lagos squandered much of its $145 billion in export earnings as five successive governments have mismanaged the oil income, diverted substantial sums to created personal fortunes and missed the opportunity to develop an economic base that could provide growth for the future.”

Decades later, poverty and corruption are still huge issue in Nigeria. As one would logically suspect, extreme poverty in Nigeria has nothing to do with Libya. Moreover, the mishandled environmental catastrophes in Nigeria provide a clearer example of how domestic issues in black sub Saharan Africa fuels sex trafficking.

“Trafficking hubs” such as the Niger Delta, have been hit with devastating oil spills that severely impacted the local economy and pushed impoverished women into prostitution both domestically and overseas. Research by Michael Olankunle has reflected this connection as local residents claimed that, “Most young ladies that have been trafficked are trafficked to overseas countries like Italy, France, Spain, Canada, Malaysia… for prostitution because oil exploitation and exploration have destroyed the community’s means of existence”.

Libya may very well be a route for women forced into sex work abroad, but without a supply this phenomenon would be greatly curtailed. As I’ve established above, this supply is fuelled by black Africans decisions - not Libyans.

Much to the surprise of Londoners, slavery actually exists here in the U.K. capital. According to Hestia, its organisation assisted “624 victims of modern slavery across London” during 2016. However, behind the vibrancy and proud culture in the London Nigerian community, lies the covert insidious practice of “domestic servitude”.

Nearly one fifth (“17 %”) of the 624 victims were from Nigeria, in which one third of this figure were victims of “domestic servitude”. What do these numbers tell us? Firstly, out of 191 countries, this issue is overwhelmingly prominent in the Nigerian community. Secondly, albeit akin to the former, a culture of secrecy exists in parts of the Nigerian community to which this practice is deemed permissible.

On a cognitive level, this acceptance has very little to do with Libyan slave merchants. I do not wish to ignore the assistance that they provide to modern day slavery, but there seems to be stronger forces that play an integral part in the acceptance of this phenomenon in London, Nigeria and Africa. Blaming Libyan traffickers is the easy option. It’s time we black Africans confront past and present failures.

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