Author : Uriel N’GBATONGO. Translated by : Donatien BERTAUD.
As this new year 2018 begins, it seems important to approach a fact “revealed to the world” at the end of 2017 but still terribly part of current affairs, slave trade in Libya. Already Known and denounced for years now in the more concerned circles by African current affairs, Libyan slavery was revealed for all to see in November 2017 by a CNN reporter’s video showing the auction sale of black people presented as mere tool of exploitation. In order to get a good understanding of the nature and causes of such a phenomenon which we good believe impossible in our time, it is necessary to have a global vision of the geopolitical and historic context in which it takes roots. Indeed, the fact is that this new form of slave trade across the Sahara appears as a negative blowback from a country prey to chaos since the fall of its authoritarian leader and each time more important flow of migrants in search of a better life on the European continent.
The Libyan havoc, hysteresis of the fall of Gaddafi’s regimen
Once seen as a symbol of success amidst African nations and one of the few countries having the force to revendicate its Pan-Africanism, Libya is only nowadays the shadow of what it once was. The day after the failure of a regime change which had the ambition to be democratic at the beginning, Saïd Haddad, a researcher at the IREMAN (Institut de recherche et d’étude sur le monde arabe et musulman, research institute on Arabic and Muslim world), wondered rightly if the term of failed state wasn’t applicable to this territory. Destroyed by the bombings and internal wars an after taste of the democratization of the Libyan regime, the propagation of armed militias and the transitional political crisis have brought an all-encompassing chaos in the country since the death of Gaddafi. Indeed, the country is presently divided in two political and military centers of influence. To the East, seated in Tobruk a parliament presided by Aguila Saleh Issa and to the west in Tripoli, is seated the Government of national accord with Fayez al-Sarraj as its head. To this is added an internal conflict due to numerous tribes to the South of the country which refused to recognized the authority of Tripoli.
The evident failure of the fall of Gaddafi’s regimen, without doubt rushed by the foreign policy of Western countries, if not to say France, has only contributed to the creation of lawless gray areas where mercenaries and militias involved in slave trade are freely doing business. However, this reality in place since 2011, the date of the fall of Gaddafi’s regimen, was especially absent in western media much to the despair of NGOs such as Amnesty International or Migreurop. Furthermore, the choc wasn’t this great in western population when CNN revealed to the world what was really happening in Libya. The problem is that we are facing here a situation similar to the wake of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: the success of a military operation which has contributed to destroy a country more than giving it new basis, the unspeakable politic reality of a military success.
Slavery across the Sahara, an historical innovation?
The world therefore had a question in mind : How can slave trade “officially banned” and disapproved by this “fantastic paper” the Human rights charter still exist nowadays ?
First of all, it is important to notice that the phenomenon of slave trade across the Sahara is taking roots in the history of relations between Arab Africa also known as white Africa, North of the Continent and the so called “black” Africa South of the Sahara. Most of the time, when we are speaking about slave trade, we think of slave trade across this Atlantic also known as “triangular trade”, to those western slave ships shipping African “ebony wood” to the American exploitation fields. Effectively; for a good reason in consideration of the importance of the phenomenon which according to the Nigerian historian Joseph Inikori made more than 112 million victims. Nevertheless, another slavery phenomenon without a doubt less known by the most European centered of this time was ravaging Africa as well, the Arab slave trade across the Sahara. If the flows of deportation across the Sahara were less important in term of quantity than the triangular trade ones, they lasted for a much longer period than the latter. Indeed, beginning during the Middle ages, slave trade across the Atlantic, only ended in the XXth century. Speaking of this I can only advise you to read Le genocide voilé ( the veiled genocide) from the Senegalese anthropologist and economist, Tidiane N’Diaye, who, justly, deals about Arab slave trade, a slave trade which lasted thirteen century against “only “ four for the slave trade across the Atlantic. With his book Le genocide voilé ( the veiled genocide) as a medium he realizes a subtle analysis of the specificity of Arab slave trade, a key element to understand the mechanism of the new Libyan slavery. He deals with western slavery and explains how the market value of “ebony wood” imposed a relative “maintenance” of the goods. That’s why, the avaricious nature of the master imposed him to take care of the health of his niggers ( a logic fundamentally opposed to all forms of mass genocide). However, he explains that the Arab slave trade, openly tolerated by the most rigorous religious authorities, was marked first and foremost by a profound racism against the Black people, a sub-race of which it was necessary to impede the reproduction. Much more than a simple deportation, the philosophy of Arab slave trade was marked by a violent nihilistic logic, if not to say genocidal, against Blacks. They were not only sold to feed caravan trade across the Sahara, or again is the less virtuous of the Muslim harems, they were subject to torture, barbarian physical acts, or even forced castrations. This is exactly what we are seeing reemerge nowadays. Through the testimonies of the ones who managed by luck to escape this Libyan slave channels, in those we learn that far from being a slave trade, it is the sequestration and the torture of hundreds of blacks which is taking place now in Libya. Much more than the simple corollary of an amoral economic opportunism which makes a free workforce out of Black people, this is in fact the consequence of the return of a Negrophobia which pursue an only aim : destroy a people of parasite migrants and obtain money out of them. For this, most of the kidnappers have put in place an efficient system. They capture migrants looking for the Mediterranean cost and stage tortures during phone calls to their families to force them to send money. It goes without saying that during their captivity, they are subject to victimization and physical humiliation. The babies and children are eliminated without consideration, and women are reduced to the state of sexual objects when they are not killed because of their weakness.
The hypocrisy of a system ?
Slavery is not new as a fact. Even worst, looking carefully it seems to be the result of an international system turned towards an only thing : private interest. Million of children are working to make clothes in the less regarding subcontracting factory of the economic and commercial international system without getting much attention from the governments and other world organization. A large variety of nations are involved in this topic, from Côte d’Ivoire and its children working in cacao plantation to manufacturing plants in China, passing by Uzbekistan cotton fields and its state’s slavery. In brief, believing that there is no power relationship and interest creating a hierarchy of human kind would only be the proof of intellectual dishonesty or of an absolute ingenuity. Africa maintains and it’s a well establish fact asymmetric relations with other continents, and this is the case on almost all aspects. As it was proven by the recurrent migratory facts toward Europe, the domination relationship on the psychological, sociological and economical front exerted by Europeans over Africa is clear. Furthermore, western interference in Africa is a reality which has been verified on different point. From a political perspective the succession since the sixties of western centered political pawn at the head of African Nations is a peculiarly manifest fact. If the now famous scandal of “Bokasa’s diamond” is presently known by everyone, another case is still the death of Thomas Sankara, former president of Burkina Faso. He rose to power in 1983 before being killed by as it is said men of Blaise Compaoré, its successor, Sankara was already a nuisance for the France of Mitterand by his impertinent Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism against former colonial powers (For instance he would support the independence movement in New Caledonia). If his death is still a mystery today numerous investigations are pointing a French implication in the death of such a troublesome African head of state. In this optic, the news report “Ombre africaine” (African shadow) published in 2009 on the italian Channel Rai 3 and directed by Silvestro Montarano, put into question using numerous testimonies the reality of a western interference in the death of Sankara.
On the economic standpoint, I can only advise you to read the debate which has been raised by Nezha Hami Eddine Mazili, economist and specialist of Africa who in Le Franc CFA, la plus grande arnaque de l’histoire (Franc CFA : the biggest scam in history) analyses one of the vestige of colonial times.
In this optic, believing that this slavery issue wasn’t known by European authorities, prey to waves of migration is wrong. On the contrary, the European Union, by its choices to manage the African migrants has demonstrated its limits regarding its supposed philanthropy. Indeed, not satisfied by silencing for years what was happening in Libya, the highest authorities in European politics have contributed to the maintain of this phenomenon by financing directly detention camps on the Libyan soil.
As such, the hypocrisy of a general public empathy toward those ill-treated humans only seems in reality to serve a political apathy of nations which would have to respond to the following statement : « Avec nos excuses, nous ne construisons rien ; nous confessons seulement nos inactions ou lâchetés » (Chemins parsemés d’immortelles pensées, M. Bouthot). “” With our excuses, we don’t build anything ; we only confess our lack of action or cowardice” ( Paths scattered with immortal thoughts, M. Bouthot).